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Mired

I’m trying an experiment. Let’s call it ‘femto-fiction’ (too short to be flash-fiction). I start with one hopefully quirky sentence, then just start writing and see what happens… 

 

The smell really didn’t bother me. I could still breathe, if I didn’t inhale the hot vapor too deeply. I was conscious, so that was good. And it seemed I was able to move, although of course that wouldn’t have been a terribly good idea just then. Not in total darkness. Certainly not with that sound so close by. It was definitely not a mechanical sound, although I have heard metal groan like that, when stressed to it’s Hooke limit, or was it the von Mises criterion? My brain was a mess. I knew trivia like that but not my own name?

The moaning was definitely organic. Not even the most sophisticated bio-mech simulation could replicate the soul behind a moan like that.

Or, I should say, moans. There were at least three. No, four. Crap, five. All around me. Were the moans getting louder? Were they coming closer?

I reached for my pistol. It wasn’t in my belt. I didn’t have a belt. I didn’t have pants. I was naked. No wonder it was so easy to float there, without the weight of my boots and equipment.

Floating, that what it was. Ok. I wasn’t afraid of the water. But this wasn’t water. It was too viscous, a syrup maybe. A really rank syrup. What or whoever was moaning was probably floating in it, too. Good. If they made a move for me, I would hear them sloshing or slurping or something. And then what? Swim away? Not very quickly, in this muck.

My skin was crawling. It started to itch. I scratched at a particularly tingly place on my chest, but that made it worse. A dull burning. Now I felt it everywhere, in some places – if you know what I mean – way worse than others.

I moaned. I didn’t care about revealing my position now. I didn’t care if the others came after me. They were probably in the same fix as me. I tried to call out, but my tongue was a slab of dead flesh.

I listened again. One groan seemed closer. I turned and tried to swim toward it. I reached out, groping at nothing.

I touched an arm. It pulled away, and I heard a sharp gasp. I tried to grunt an encouraging sound, and reached further. I found a shoulder. Whatever it was, the body felt like mine. A person. It didn’t pull away this time.

We joined hands. I started a one-handed swim toward another moaner, with this person swimming alongside me. We found a third, then a fourth, a fifth. Now what? It was still totally dark, with no visible escape.

Six of us swam in an arbitrary but single direction, with no other aim than to simply do something together, rather than stew there inertly alone.

An obstacle. Something solid. Slimy but solid. We climbed, pulling each other up, out of the morass, slipping and breathing heavily, with occasional grunts that sometimes sounded like laughter.

The air cooled as we climbed. Above us, in the darkness I thought I saw… Yes, a tiny speck of light, and then another, then hundreds, then millions.

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