Fantasy author Ellie Garratt, fresh from her success with her anthology of the macabre, Passing Time, releases Taking Time and Other Science Fiction Stories! Congrats to Ellie from Written Worlds – this one looks to be another creep-tastic smash!
Taking Time by Ellie Garratt
Science fiction stories of time and space…
The future of humanity must be decided in Next Phase. Winning the Planetary Lottery is not as lucky as it first seems in Schrodinger’s Gamble. An apocalypse and its aftermath threaten to tear one couple apart in Daiker’s Children. In Life As I Know It a reclusive man finds both his heart and home invaded during an alien harvest. In Taking Time a demon seeking shelter on a distant planet finds himself facing a very different kind of demon, after answering a frontier settlement’s plea for help.
Stories range from flash fiction to novelette in length.
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About The Author
Author Ellie Garratt
A life-long addiction to reading science fiction and horror meant writing was the logical outlet for Ellie Garratt’s passions. She is a reader, writer, blogger, Trekkie, and would happily die to be an extra in The Walking Dead.
Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online. Passing Time: Nine Short Tales of the Strange and Macabre was published in March 2013 and contains nine previously published stories. Taking Time and Other Science Fiction Stories is her second short story collection.
Taking Time by Ellie Garratt
They–the lottery officials–are waiting for me. It turns out the last door on the right isn’t an exit, rather a walkway that leads past the fleet relay station, now buzzing with activity, and on to lottery headquarters–a large room with a metallic desk and four chairs in one corner.
“Hi,” I say as I walk into the room. An elderly man and middle-aged woman I recognise from lottery advertisements are standing behind the desk.
“Charles Schrodinger?” the elderly man asks.
“Excellent,” he says.
I hear an eruption of cheers travelling our way from the flight deck and suspect I’m being ousted from the draw after all. I glance at my ticket and begin examining it for signs of forgery.
“There are a few things we need to go over before the planet is officially yours, Charles. You understand there are matters that need to be addressed?”
I must give the impression of being vacant at that point because the old man repeats himself twice.
“But that would mean I’ve already won,” I mutter.
“Yes. We thought you’d been briefed.” The old man and woman glance at one another.
The female official, who I finally remember is called Janna Brisbane, makes a tutting sound.
“Take a seat, Charles. There are a few things we need to discuss,” Janna says with an exasperated tone to her voice. I stay standing.
Ignoring my failure to sit, she continues. “The thing is safety–your safety. We couldn’t possibly leave you out there to be savaged by the fleet. Have you any idea of the tactics those friendly-faced terraformers would use to part you with your ticket? The deceit they would employ to pass themselves off as you? No. We won’t even start talking about the religious groups. So, the draw is pre-determined in this way.”
“Pre-determined?” I ask.
“You don’t think we leave it to chance, do you? Let a random person or ship win a planet. Considerable research and thought goes into deciding who is the best candidate for the job. Of course there’ve been mistakes; the first planet and the isolationists, but on the whole I believe we got it right.”
I picked up the heavy bundle of survival rations left for me in the exit corridor, took one last look at the door to The Facility through which one kind of future was offered, and then walked out into the yellow-tinged atmosphere of Southern England. The aliens’ offer of a safe living environment and human facsimiles stopped being an option the moment I learnt Jen had not made it to their facility. I had to find her even if it cost my life. She was my world, and a world without her was not one I wanted to live in.
During the days of alien-enforced quarantine–I have no idea how long it lasted because there were no clocks to tell the time or date–I forgot just how acrid Earth’s atmosphere had become. The toxic air outside the facility scratched my lungs like cats clawing sharp talons down my windpipe. My breathing slowed and became more laboured. I could hear myself starting to wheeze. As my eyes burned and watered and my vision deteriorated, I dropped my heavy backpack on the ground and pulled out the gas mask they gave me. A few fumbling seconds later, the clear plastic mask covered my nose and mouth, and cool, clean air refreshed me. Within seconds, my breathing returned to normal though the mask could not remove my memory of devastation’s stink–the sweet scent of burned bodies and a burnt-out civilisation.
I found it hard to believe there was ever a world, a safe world, as I gazed in horror at the toxic wasteland before me. A sea of atomic destruction blinked back. Nothing remained standing or intact except for the ruins of Exeter in the distance. I’d allowed myself to bask in a happy kind of naivety, ignorant of the destructive power our governments and military harboured. Now I faced the consequences. I vowed never to be so naive or stupid again. To find her meant questioning everything.
A tall, lithe woman of a similar age to Ing approached me. Her short-cropped hair was the colour of darkness, and there was a confidence to the way she swaggered up to me. She was the person in charge.
She stopped only a couple of inches from my face, almost breathing down my throat. I prayed she didn’t notice my lack of breath–the undead had no need for air in their lungs.
“You don’t look well, bounty hunter,” she said.
As I stood taller, so that my already imposing six-foot frame loomed over the human female, I knew I’d have to talk her around. “I’ve not been on solid land for a few months. I’ve been running down illegal passage ships and cargo. Illegal cargo.”
Her eyes flashed bright with something. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but the word illegal had excited her.
She held out a hand for me to shake. “The name’s McCaffrey. Formerly of any planet left to colonise.”
I took her hand and shook it, then re-introduced myself. “Victory Dead. Formerly of Earth.”
McCaffrey dismissed everyone but the scare-faced Ing, and they took me into a bar like all the others I’d passed through since travelling the frontier–a cheap and fast assembly metal-frame construction. It contained only the most basic furnishings. There were more patrons than I could count, and they went silent when we entered.
When I reached the bar, a stone-faced human male behind the counter slid a bottle towards me. I wasn’t sure what it contained but accepted it anyway–to refuse would have been rude and invited trouble. “Compliments of Daring,” he said as I placed my supplies on the floor beside me.
“Thanks,” I replied before pretending to sniff the contents of the bottle. As a vampire, I could only smell blood.
The bartender turned his attention to McCaffrey and scar-face. “Evening, Captain. Thought I told you to keep Ing away.”
Ing scowled and stepped forward, his hands balled into fists. McCaffrey placed an arm across his chest.
“You know it’s not Captain anymore. I haven’t been a captain since I crash-landed here three years ago. And Ing won’t be causing you any trouble while I’m here. You have my word.”
The owner grunted something and then moved off to serve another customer.
I wasn’t sure how long a Revelation year lasted, so when McCaffrey spoke of crash-landing three years ago she could have been talking any number of Earth years or months.
“Well it’s about time,” said a voice behind me, interrupting my thoughts.