Brigit’s Flame December of Minis entry one-
Speculative Future Fiction
Rated M for Mature – for gore and horror
This is part two of at least three.
Part one is here: “The New Doom”
It wasn’t long after Dallas closed her eyes that it started.
The dream is always the same at the beginning. Dallas – sitting in a crowded, open-air plaza, at a familiar outdoor cafe surrounded by her family. She kisses the top of Jake’s head – his soft, tawny swirls brushing her cheek as he turns to show Inna the new toy Dallas has just given him. Her father makes a joke and their joined laughter carries above the mild din of other patrons.
A woman at the next table slips a treat from her own plate to Belle who accepts it daintily. Dallas meets the stranger’s eyes as she looks up from petting the little dog. The woman blushes and smiles shyly. Dallas notices her hand stroke a small white stone affixed to a cord around her neck. It is the memorial stone for treasured family, likely a dog given the context. Dallas mirrors the gesture sliding a finger across her own stone, thinking of her dear uncle instead of one of the four-legged ghosts of her childhood.
Across the table her mother, Cilla, notices the motion and shows she understands the touch of sadness that crosses Dallas’ eyes by raising her wine glass in a silent toast to a good man.
Then Jake pulls at her sleeve and redirects her attention to the sky. Clusters of well-formed cumulus clouds – bellies heavy with the juice of a tangerine sunset – drift by. He points to the clouds because seeing the underside from a Skydeck is rare. Given the altitude of the manufactured continent, clouds were typically seen from above or shared space with the Kauri inhabitants as fog.
Inna points to a really fat cloud, candied in fuchsia despite the golden light. It grows as they watch, expanding swiftly from the center; a rolling thunderhead crackling with white-violet lightning.
Dallas always recognizes the dream for what it is when that unnatural cloud unfurls. Her stomach clenches knowing what will happen next.
Like a flash mob of old, costumed people stream into the plaza making ordered rows. The assembled audience stands and pushes in for a better view. This is the event they have all been waiting for.
Dallas stands with her family. Inna is in front with Jake, hands on his shoulders and lips near his ear to be heard over the music filling the plaza. The dreaming Dallas groans. “Pull him back!” she fights to scream, but she is not in control of the Dallas at the scene.
The performers are made up like cats; though their ears are long like wild hares and they are wearing overalls. The fabric of their costumes rustles softly as they file in from the four arches and take position. Odors like wet hay and afterbirth follow the players into the plaza center, pushing the usual scents of spiced food and incense out into the street.
Dallas looks away from the assembly to see if anyone else notices the strong, suffocating stink. This time, in this version of the dream, she looks to the southwest. Initially, she checks the storm’s progress, notes it seems to have stalled kilometers from the Skydeck.
Beneath the cloud, at deck level, a man stands looking out over the distant ocean. He turns as though he senses her attention. Dallas recognizes his face. He is a fellow SPS astropilot, of Russian or Pan-Slavic descent. She remembers that his accent is thick and rich like a savory stew and that his eyes are crystalline green jewels in a face that never smiled. Dallas does not remember ever being told his name.
His head is covered by a skull cap, but she can see tight, auburn curls tufting out around the sides of his windburned face. The man is looking at Dallas as intently as she is in return, then he drops his eyes to his Cuff and extends his right arm to the side – palm out. Dallas understands at once that he is showing her his Cuff screen. Though he is standing more than 50 meters away, she can read the Cuff and his expression easily. His face shows fear and the device reads, “Contact.” followed by a num-char string.
Dallas barely registers that he is giving her a way to contact him before he gestures with his Cuff hand in her direction. Their eyes meet. No pick-up artist flirtation there. No “Call Me” motion with a double-tap to the ear. Instead, he points over her shoulder and mouths “look” as a tear slides down his cheek.
Dreaming Dallas doesn’t want to look. Not again. She does not want to watch this happen ever again. But the other Dallas dutifully turns.
The performers select the children from the front of the crowd. They weaving dancing lines around the plaza holding the hands of beaming children in their soft paws. The lines halt their dance to face each other in two concentric circles – performers on the inside and children on the outside. From their front bib pockets the performers produce a small square of something shiny. Like furry magicians, they hold the objects by a single corner and shake them. Fine, sparkling motes tinkle from the objects and float over the upturned faces of enraptured children. The action is repeated for each corner, and with each shake the object grows until what began as a dense, three centimeter square becomes a gauzy cloth that covers the hand.
The faces of the children glitter with a fine iridescence. The rabbit-y people lean forward as though sharing a secret with the child in front of them. They rub a tiny spot clean on the end of each child’s nose while whispering instructions. Then they reach into their bibs and theatrically pull out a handful of glitter confetti. This too is blown in the faces of the juvenile crowd.
The children stretch their arms like bird wings and spiral back to their waiting families in the crowd – still part of the performance. Smiling parents receive their children with open arms and exclaim cheerfully over their shining faces. Inna runs a finger down Jake’s cheek and smudges some of the shimmering dust across her own cheeks.
Dallas watches Jake’s face. He is grinning. Then he is holding his stomach in pain.
Across the plaza the children are holding their stomachs. They do not double over with the pain, they stretch to meet the faces of concerned parents who lean in to ask what is wrong. Blood sprays from the mouths and noses of the still twinkling faces. Torrents of blood spew simultaneously into the faces of those closest to the children in distress. As the horrible wave explodes from them, each child drops. They are dead before their knees remember to bend.
Dallas is screaming. Jake is lying on his side, the skin of his face translucent where it is not bloody. Then Inna is spewing blood in the same manner. This into Cilla’s face as the aunt wails, but refuses to let go of her dying niece. Dallas’ father grabs his daughters roughly by the arms and pushes them toward the street, “Run!” he bellows even as Cilla clings to Cassie and a river of blood is sent into her eyes and mouth.
Dallas sees that some of the blood has splashed onto her father’s nose and cheek. Words like ‘contagion’ and ‘infected’ flood her brain as she realizes that Cassie is falling to the floor and her father is next. He is holding an inert Belle in his arms and screaming to Dallas to run. But where? The plaza is full of the dead and dying. If she left, she might spread the outbreak to another sector.
Dallas saw her father wince in pain. She ran to him and threw her arms around his chest, bracing herself against the cascade of blood. He sinks lifeless to the cobbles and she kneels beside him to await her fate. The performers are gone. She did not notice them leave. A glance to the southwest and she notes that the other pilot is gone. Not dead, but not present.
All that’s left is the storm. That strange fuchsia cloud rumbles overhead; the rain falling in heavy drops from a starless, aubergine sky. Dallas is awake before her own stomach cramps.
Awake and dreading the next time she needs to sleep.
After scrubbing the tears from her face, she activates her Cuff and enters the contact info for the pilot in the dream. He is not the first she’s seen there, but he is the first who behaved lucidly and spoke to her directly. In the two years since the first vision, Dallas had recognized a dozen pilots in the plaza. It was the only detail that changed from dream to dream. With this new knowledge of Sylvia B’s vision, Dallas was wondering if they were dreamers too.