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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Call of Nature

Since a lot of my early short stories/flash fictions were on sites that are no longer active, I thought I would post them here. This story was my first accepted story, back around May of 2006, and was published in Raygun Revival on February 2007. I've also included in my anthology, Ethereal Worlds. Enjoy.
~~ R. L. Copple

The metal hanger, which housed the Z-14X prototype space plane, shined in the moonlight just beyond the barbed-wired fence. The moonlight reminded John of the sun. He couldn't wait to see it against the blackness of space.

The security fence gloated, "Just try to get through," but it hadn't counted on someone who could simply fly over. It hadn't counted on—Moth Man.

The only real ability John possessed: he could fly using the soft wings on his back. That and the fact if someone ate him, they would die of toxic poison. "A lot of good that would do me. Why couldn't a radioactive spider have bitten me? Why a moth?" he had often wondered.

Yet now the wings came in handy. He lifted himself into the air. Wind flowed through his hair as he bounced though the cool night over the compound. Soon he sank to the ground beside the hanger.

John peered into the window and saw the craft bathed in dim moonlight:  a black shell, adorned by four wings well back on the craft, spread out in an "X" pattern. Just as his web research had revealed. Touted as the first plane to fly successfully out of earth's gravity and into space, it looked the part.

A growl sounded. He swung around to see a German Shepherd baring its teeth. He froze. I could probably fly away before he reached me. He prepared to launch.

"Freeze!" A uniformed man swung around the corner, brandishing a rifle pointed straight at John. He froze again.

I might be able to escape the dog, but not the bullet. "Sorry, can you tell me how to get to the Hilton? I seem to be lost."

He didn't buy it. "Up against the wall, hands high." The dog threatened with a low rumbling growl.

John complied, what else could he do? As he followed the officer's orders, his black and gold tiger-moth wings came into view.

"What the…" The officer moved closer and felt the wings. He rubbed the wing dust off his hands with a grimace and then patted John down for weapons.

John saw his opportunity. He swung his wings hard, hitting the officer in the head. The hit and wing dust disoriented him. John's fist landed a hit squarely on the back of his neck. The guard dropped unconscious. John launched himself into the air before the dog could reach him. The Shepherd's snapping jaws just missed John's dangling foot.

The barking dog now broadcasted the fact that an intruder had penetrated the compound. John no longer had time for subtleties. Landing on the roof, he kicked in the skylight.  It shattered open, and he winged his way inside.

Now, where did they store the plutonium fuel rods? John swung around and spotted them, in a box labeled as such along the wall. He grabbed a handful and flew to the cockpit. Once inside, he inserted all but two fuel rods into the power receptors and initiated the injection process.

By now, several guards filed in the door, guns encircled the ship. The engines had power, so John increased the throttle. The plane lurched forwards. Gunfire echoed in the hanger. Warning shots, hoping it would scare John into stopping no doubt. They didn't want to riddle their craft with holes. Not until they had no other recourse.

Doing a standard take-off would take too long. John thought about going right to the nuclear escape engines. Such force, designed for airborne ignition, could tear it and him apart from a near-dead stop. He had only one viable course of action.

He braced himself, then hit the ignition switch. The Gs slammed him into the seat. He struggled to maintain consciousness. The metal groaned under the strain. The plane shot forward and ploughed through the hanger doors. Scraping metal sounds echoed through the cockpit. It bounced along the ground. A fence raced toward the plane. John pulled back on the stick, already speeding past 200 knots. The prototype shot upward. The Gs squished him as if a giant hand pushed on his head.

As the plane cleared the buildings and the land quickly receded, John cut the ignition and switched to standard fuel. His field of vision returned and his face reshaped to its rounded state like a baby fresh out of the womb.

John glanced at the escape-engine fuel gauge. The stunt had expended a third of what he needed to escape earth's gravity. He inserted the other two rods. The solar panels should keep life support going as long as needed. John didn't expect to return anyway.

John released manual control to the computer. The escape engines fired. Again he sank into the seat. The craft angled higher. The blue sky receded. The stars brightened, looking like white sand dusting a black void. The horizon shifted to a curved surface rimmed with the sun's golden silhouette.

Suddenly, a ray of sunlight broke over the earth's rim, bathing John in awe. Its beauty filled his mind. The light entranced John; its song called to him.

Time suspended, the shinning light against the blackness of space filled all desire. Before, John had flown as high as his wings would let him but the sun remained out of reach. Now, he could soar until he soaked in all of its beautiful light.

John pulled a disk from his pocket and held it before his eyes. He had pre-programmed the flight path:  a one-way trip to the sun. His gaze moved back to the enveloping fireball. He could hold back no longer. John slid the disk into the ship's computer. It responded with beeps and a message reading, "program accepted." The engines adjusted the trajectory.

Did John know it would kill Him? Yes. But he didn't care. He could not rest until he took in all the glorious radiance his body could endure.

"Why couldn't I have been bit by a radioactive spider instead?"

Check out Ethereal Worlds for more short stories.

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