Last Meal 

Revisiting an early Flash Fiction piece from 2015. My secret wish is to write sci fi!

Last Meal

All the astronauts gathered in the dining room of Space Command. We were all scared, despite the fact that we’d been training for this mission for the last two years.

Henry sat next to me, eyeing up the untouched food on my plate and asked, “Are you going to eat that?”

“Take it,” I said and shoved the plate toward him. My stomach was in knots. Even though this would be the last hot, cooked meal I would have for some time, months in fact, I couldn’t bring myself to have even one bite. I watched, trying to quell the nausea, as Henry happily chowed down on my mashed potatoes and gravy.

Soon the captain’s voice came over the speaker, directing us to the embarkation port to board the ship. With our packs strapped to our back, the ten of us boarded the Santa Maria for the first ever manned, deep space exploratory mission. Humankind was about to travel outside the bounds of the solar system.

After endless checks and counter checks, the Origami Drive spaceship Santa Maria -so named for the way the engines folded space- cleared the dock at Moon Station One and accelerated past the six planets beyond earth. After Neptune, we entered the minefield that was the Oort Cloud, home to lifeless planetoids, rocky asteroids, and icy comets. The Chief Navigator had plotted a course along the clearest path. Nevertheless, the ship vibrated as its outer hull was pelted with debris from the outer edges of our solar system.

Suddenly, as the ship pitched violently, klaxons sounded and the air depressurized. My last thought before everything exploded around me was that I wished I had enjoyed my last meal.

The Mysterious Arboretum (8)

Last year, I started writing a story for the 10-year-old daughter of a friend. This is the final chapter! I hope you enjoy it. Find previous chapters here.

Chapter 8

Mr. Vogelsinger’s first priority was his class. But as he made a move for the door, the professor once again reached for the container holding the explosive device. As he held his thumb over the keypad, the lock on the container opened. Mr. Vogelsinger quickly turned and with a mighty shove, pushed him away from the device. The professor landed on the floor with a thud.

“No!” he cried. “You’re ruining everything!”

Mr. Vogelsinger ignored him as he studied the controls on the device. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was just a simple on/off switch which he promptly switched to the off position. Then he unplugged the wires leading to the cage. He nodded to Sandy and then ran outside to check on the rest of the kids while the ground continued to shake beneath their feet.

Sandy stumbled to the cage and opened it, allowing the tiny aliens to fly to the ceiling, out of the reach of the professor. Only injured Wen remained in the cage. The professor pushed Sandy away and grabbed for him. “All of you,” he shouted. “Back inside or your friend here will pay the price!”

“No!” Sandy screamed. “Please don’t hurt him!”

“Quiet, you!” he snarled.

The rest of the unit continued to hover out of reach. They looked from one another to their injured comrade to Sandy, uncertain what to do.

“Professor Noom, don’t you see it’s too late?” Sandy reasoned. “Your secret is out. Mr. Vogelsinger knows what you’ve done and the arboretum is going back to its natural state. You might as well just give it up.”

“She’s right, professor,” Mr. Vogelsinger said from the door. “The police and fire department are here. The arboretum is collapsing and your two employees are giving their statements. It’s over.”

“But, but….” he sputtered. “What about them?” he asked, holding out the injured Wen. “This was MY discovery!”

“They are no one’s discovery, professor. They are people with basic rights, including the right of freedom. If they choose to let themselves be known to the rest of our world, that’s up to them.” The teacher reached out and gestured for the professor to hand over the alien. “Apparently, you never told any of the employees how you managed to pull this off. They’re all under the impression that it was an elaborate digital holographic display. So the aliens remain a secret, save for the three of us and my class. And I’m pretty sure they can keep the secret once we tell them what you’ve been doing to these people.”

The professor seemed to deflate before their eyes as he gently placed Wen in Mr. Vogelsinger’s outstretched hand. “What will happen to me?” he whimpered.

“The police are going to charge you with negligence and reckless endangerment at a minimum. I convinced them to let me talk you into giving yourself up. They’re waiting for you.” The teacher gestured for the professor to exit the building in front of him. He turned to Sandy and handed Wen over to her. “Keep everyone out of sight until we’re free to go.”

“Mr. Vogelsinger! What are we going to do?” Sandy asked. “They won’t be able to go home until Wen is all healed up!”

He smiled at his student. “Don’t worry, Sandy. We’ll think of something!”

As the teacher left the interior of the shed once again, Sandy looked around for a spot to hide her new friends. Besides the table that supported the cage, there was an old desk, a tall metal cabinet, and the crate on which she had been forced to sit. She sighed. The police were likely to search the desk, the cabinet and the crate. There was no hiding place behind the table. She looked at Wen and then up at Pella. “I know! I have the perfect idea!”

***

Outside, the ground had finally stopped shaking as the arboretum returned to its natural state. Sparse copses of trees stood devoid of leaves, weeds choked overgrown flower beds, brambles and vines overran any of the former plantings that had been part of the original displays. Mr. Vogelsinger’s class stood huddled together with their teacher, while the professor was led away in handcuffs.

“Hey, everyone,” Sandy called out as she approached. “Don’t forget your action figures.” She carried the twelve fliers in her arms and handed one each to her classmates. She winked as she gave Pella to Liam and kept Wen for herself.

Mr. Vogelsinger stepped in front of the class and addressed the officer in charge. “Officer, if you’re finished with the kids, I think we should go. Our bus is scheduled to pick us up out front any minute. I can get the kids back to the school on time. And then I can inform the parents myself so they won’t be worried unnecessarily.”

The police officer rubbed his chin. “I suppose that will be all right. We might have some more questions for the children at some point though. I’m going to need a list of their names.”

“Of course,” he agreed. Turning to the class, he gave them a pointed look and said, “Alright, guys, let’s get out of here.”

Without a word, they followed their teacher across the rough ground back to the now visible Visitors’ Center. Once they had exited the building and boarded the bus, the class let out a cheer.

Mr. Vogelsinger motioned for them to settle down. “All right, all right. Good job keeping it together back there, guys. I’m very proud of you all. Now, I think we ought to find out what our new friends here would like to do. Pella? How can we help you?”

Pella flew from Liam’s arms to hover in front of the teacher. “If it’s all the same to you, teacher, we would just like a safe place to stay until Wen is healthy enough to travel.” She took a deep breath and went on. “We know it’s not right to judge a whole people by just one or two of its members, but we can’t take a chance that your leaders won’t want to do the same thing the professor did. We hope you understand.”

Mr. Vogelsinger nodded. “Yes, indeed. Very well. You are welcome to come stay at my home until such time as you’re fit to travel. You’ll be safe there.” He turned to the class. “Listen up, this is very important. The lives and the safety of our new friends will depend on you guys being able to keep their secret. At least until they have safely gone on their way. Can I trust you to do that?”

Everyone nodded in agreement. But then Sandy stepped forward and crossed her arms. “I’ve got one condition.”

Mr. Vogelsinger sighed. “Yes, Sandy?”

She grinned. “I want to be able to come and visit!”

Mr. Vogelsinger laughed. “I think that can be arranged.”

The End

The Mysterious Arboretum (7)

By Meg Sorick

Last year, I started writing a story for the 10-year-old daughter of a friend. I hope you enjoy it. Find previous chapters here.

Chapter 7

“Mr. V! Did you see that?” Liam asked excitedly. “Look!”

From the depths of the forest flew a tiny winged creature. The teacher and his students instinctively ducked as the flier zoomed over their heads. After a loop, Pella came to a hovering stop in front of Mr. Vogelsinger.

“Teacher!” she cried. “Sandy is in trouble! The professor has her. You need to follow me!”

Mr. Vogelsinger was rendered speechless and stood staring at her with his mouth agape. Pella motioned for him to follow and flew a little way in the direction she’d come. “Please!”

Mr. Vogelsinger shook his head to clear it. “Now hold on just a minute.” He held his hands up for her to stop. “I think you’d better explain…. “ He paused, struggling to wrap his brain around what he was seeing. “You’d better explain… everything.”

“There’s no time!” she cried.

The teacher frowned. “I am not following after a…. “ he waved his hands in her direction. “What are you?”

Pella sighed. “All right, here’s our story…” And she quickly relayed the tale of what had happened to her and her unit as they traveled through this part of the universe. Finishing by explaining how the professor and trapped them to make them do his bidding. “Now will you come with me?”

Mr. Vogelsinger looked skeptical. “I don’t understand. With all your abilities, why couldn’t you free yourself? Surely if you can maintain the habitats of this arboretum, you could move a simple cage to free yourselves.”

“If it were a simple cage, that would be true. But the professor has it rigged with a small explosive device. The explosive device itself is in a container that has a pad that the professor uses to turn it off and on again when he brings us supplies.” She flew in a circle, becoming more agitated. “I’ve tried using the pad myself but it doesn’t work for me. I think maybe another human has to open it. I couldn’t take a chance that I’d set off the device before my friends could get free.”

“Hmm, it might be a fingerprint reader,” Mr. Vogelsinger mused. “If that’s the case, the professor will be the only one who can open it, then.” He cleared his throat. “So that’s what you were hoping to get my student to do for you? Open the container? Good gracious! Sandy could’ve blown herself to smithereens!”

“Well, the professor has her now! We have to hurry!”

This time the teacher sprang into action. “All right, listen up guys. Stay within sight of me but stand back. I can’t take a chance on losing you in this crazy place but I also can’t take the chance on getting any of you hurt. Follow me!”

The class and their teacher hurried to keep pace with the flying alien as she darted along the path and into the trees. They had to follow single file as they wound their way deeper into the habitat. Soon though, they emerged in front of the shed where Sandy and Pella’s friends were being held. Mr. Vogelsinger motioned for the class to wait quietly at the edge of the trees.

He crept to the door and pushed it open. “All right, professor! What do you think you’re doing?”

The professor spun around, shocked and sputtering. “What? Oh! N-n-nothing! Look, your student broke in here and was up to no good!” he blustered, pointing at Sandy in the corner.

“It’s not true Mr. V!” she cried. “He’s the one that’s up to no good!”

Pella flew into the shed and hovered over her caged friends. The professor gaped at her. “There’s another one? Where did you come from?”

She ignored him and spoke to her friends. “You can stop flying now. The teacher is gong to help us!” And at her words, the exhausted fliers stopped their circular flight and dropped to the floor of the cage. Immediately, the ground beneath their feet began to rumble.

The professor cried, “NO!” and made a dive for the container holding the explosive device.

Mr. Vogelsinger stepped in front of him and blocked his way as the building began to shake. “Don’t even think about it!” he ordered.

The professor stopped in his tracks, but as the children waiting outside began to shout, he smiled wickedly. “Don’t you think you’d better go check on your class?”

Mr. Vogelsinger looked from the professor to the tiny imprisoned aliens in the cage. And he realized he had no option….

To be continued…

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