Write about now

October 5, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Orichalcum Sailor

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: — Eva Therese @ 4:10 pm

Aaaannnddd I’m back from holidays and stuff. *looks around* Huh, it’s been longer than I thought. *writes her name in the dust on the mantelpiece*
So I did a flash fiction challenge, as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig. It can be found here and my randomly generated title was Orichalcum Sailor. I had much fun with it, even if I did manage to depress myself a little bit.
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In the absolute quiet of the fog, the sounds of the airship seem deafening. Every creak of the ropes a scream, every groan of the planks an explosion. The sailor can see dark shadows moving in the fog; judging from their size they are air-born whales; harmless, although so large that they sometimes cause accidents. But there are other things lurking in the shadows. Like the small green swallows, no bigger than a mans hand, who sometimes join together in flocks counting millions and blacken the sky and devour everything on their way, even the whales. And then there are less tangible threats.
It is so quiet that the sailor can hear even the faint humming of the oirchalcum in the hold. It is the most precious metal on the planet, perhaps on any planet. It is both strong and beautiful, making it sought after by weapon makers and jewellers alike, but it is valued most of all for its other qualities. It enhances psionic abilities and there isn’t a second-rate telepath on the planet who wouldn’t sell her own grandfather for just a splinter of the metal. The amount in the cargo is worth more money than the sailor will see his entire life. To ensure his loyalty, the mining company is holding his daughter hostage. If even a gram of the metal is missing when he gets to port and unload, they will cut off one of her fingertips. If two grams are missing, they will take the whole finger. More than that …
The sailor shakes his head to clear it. Why did he start thinking about that? He needs to focus on getting himself and the cargo home safely. The company is hard but fair and as long as he does his job, they won’t harm his little girl. On the contrary, right now she will be safe and warm and fed and looked after. He did the right thing by taking this job. If he hadn’t, they would both have starved to death. He shakes his head again. The soft humming from the orichalcum seemed to have grown louder, but it is only because his hearing is straining against the silence around them. Still, he can hear it clearer now, it is less like a humming and more like an actual sound, but very soft and low and he can’t make it out.
Maybe he shouldn’t have agreed to a carry a bigger load this time around. Orichalcum can only be transported in very small amounts; too much of it in one place and it gains critical mass and wipes out everything. That is why the company is always hiring people willing to leave a child behind and set out to transport a small amount of the metal from the skymines, through the foggy cloudsea and down to land.
He doesn’t mind for his own sake that it’s dangerous work, but he does for his daughter’s. The thought of what will happen to her if he one day doesn’t come home, torments him every day and sometimes it keeps him awake at night. He wants to save up enough money to quit and set up a shop, but the wager is low and it will be a long time before he can make it. So this time he agreed to carry a bigger load. It is still well below the critical mass, but even this amount can do peculiar things to a man.
Maybe that is why his concentration is slipping, he thinks, as he shakes his head once again. He once heard that orichalcum only affects psions. The sailor have never shown any signs of having any kind of psionic abilities, but they can be dormant. Just his luck, that he has something in his brain that has never been useful in any way, but is now letting the metal mess with him. He promises himself that the next time, he will just take the usual load, the money be damned. If he can’t keep his wits about him, there’s a much bigger risk that something will happen and he won’t get home and then his daughter …
He shakes his head again. He can hear the orichalcum clearly now. It’s singing to him, a wordless song, repeated over and over and over, more beautiful every time, until it feels like his heart will break from it. He leaves the rudder and goes to the cargo hatch. He hesitates only a moment before opening it and kneeling by the edge. The song flows around him, so powerful that it feels like he should be able to touch the sound waves. He can see the metal bars, black, but gleaming with every colour of the rainbow, like an oil spill.
It’s alive. He is neither surprised not frightened by this realisation. It seems very natural. The orichalcum is not unlike the flocks of green birds, who can become something terrible, a force of nature when there are enough of them.
Like it has heard his thoughts and waited for just this realisation, the song stops. It feels like his heart should stop with it. Tears stings his eyes as he starts to cry over the loss. “Sing again, please,” he whisper.
You must help. The thought appears in his brain like he has thought it himself, but he know he hasn’t.
“What do you want?” he asks.
The answer is longer, more complicated. It consists of a series of images, combined with emotions. There are words, but they are few and far between.
When it is finished, he nods once and gets up. He goes back to the rudder and changes course. A few degrees widdershins and up. Behind him, the orichalcum starts to sing its strange, beautiful song again.
He looks down, through the plate of glass set in the bottom of the hull. He can faintly see the lights of Rambura, the city he was on his way to. He frowns. There was something there he was supposed to do, some reason to go there, but if he can’t remember what it was, it can’t have been very important. The music washes over him again and he shakes his head to clear it from the unwanted thoughts and focus on listening.

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3 Comments »

  1. Now there’s a novel waiting to be written in this world. Beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by OzFenric — October 5, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

    • Wow, thank you! It’s hard to judge my own work, but I was really happy with this. Not that I couldn’t have used more words …

      Comment by Eva T — October 6, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

  2. […] writing PsionPunk (or possibly OrichalcumPunk or maybe both). The story works as a sequel to this Flash Fiction Challenge but if I’ve done my work properly, it should be possible to read this without having read the […]

    Pingback by Flash Fiction Challenge – SomethingPunk | Write about now — March 20, 2014 @ 6:06 pm


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