While some #SFSwap prompts (I’m looking at you, ‘Alien Booze’) leave enormous room for interpretation, others are highly specific – such as this one from @danielmbase. And while author @stefmowords may have followed the brief to the letter, they’ve found plenty of room for creativity – this story takes place entirely through dialogue, and has a definite John Carpenter feel to it. See for yourself!


STORY NUMBER: 22

PROMPT PROVIDER: @danielmbase

AUTHOR: @stefmowords

TITLE:Dead Birds


 

‘Repeat last, please, Kim?’

‘Dead birds.’

‘You’re seeing dead birds?’

‘Yep.’

‘How many?’

‘Lots.’

‘Conservative estimate?’

‘Wouldn’t want to make one at this point. More dead ones than live ones, put it that way. No signs of physical trauma, and initial bios are coming back negative on all counts. It’s like they just fell out of the sky. How’s that —- —- coming?’

‘Sorry, Kim, can you repeat your last query?’

‘I said how’s that wide scan coming?’

‘Ah, sorry, we’re still having trouble cracking the interference. Visual link still isn’t forthcoming.’

‘And my wide scan?’

‘Watch this space.’

‘Great.’

‘Hey, just means you get to do more fun wandering around. Feeling nostalgic?’

‘Nostalgic? Not really. I’ve barely spent any time on this planet.’

‘More than I have. You said there were more dead birds than live ones. Are you seeing some live ones, then?’

‘In the distance, at the edge of the swamp. I’m heading that way now.’

‘Roger that.’

‘Ugh.’

‘What?’

‘It’s just eerie. The silence. Apart from your voice and my suit, I can’t hear anything. No wind. No birds, obviously.’

‘What about the live ones?’

‘They’re just, kind of… wandering around. Pecking at the ground. Not making any sound.’

‘The dead ones, how many different species are you seeing?’

‘At least five. No patterns beyond the-’

‘Kim? Kim? Repeat last, please?’

‘-dead.’

‘Repeat last, please, Kim.’

‘I said I’m not discerning any patterns beyond the fact that they’re all birds, and they’re all dead. I’m going to take some pictures of these other ones, I suppose there’s no chance of a live feed? Be good for you guys to read these as I’m taking them.’

‘I’m afraid not. We’ve barely — — —-width to-’

‘Sorry Low Base, lost you there. Repeat last, please?

‘I said we’ve barely got the bandwidth to maintain audio. This interference is bizarre, nothing like what the forward teams described, and it’s different from anything we’ve-’

‘Hello? Low Base? Low Base, come in? Fuck’s sake…’

‘-layers?’

‘Repeat last, please, Low Base. Lost most of what you said. Low Base? Hello?’

‘-Kim? There-’

‘Low Base? Low Base? Ugh, goddamn arse-backwards motherfucking tech shit-’

‘Sorry, Kim, repeat last, please?’

‘Nothing, Low Base. Missed pretty much everything you just said, can you repeat, please? Low Base? Hello? Screw it. Just take your pictures, Kim.’

‘—-’

‘Yeah, yeah. Sure thing. Static to you too, Low Base.’

‘—–’

‘Yes, Low Base. I quite agree. In fact, that’s one of the most insightful statics I’ve ever static’d. How on earth do you static such static? Fucking bullshit short straw mission…’

‘—–’

‘Why, Low Base. That’s terribly forward of you. If I weren’t currently knee deep in bird corpses, taking multi-layer micrographs of the few remaining living specimens, then maybe I…’

‘—’

‘Oh my God.’

‘—’

‘Low Base? Low Base, please come in.’

‘—’

‘Low Base, there’s something else here. I can’t… it doesn’t… I don’t…’

‘Kim? Kim, can you-’

‘Low Base! Did you hear me? There’s something here, I’m trying to get a picture, it… it’s not… oh God. I’m going to need evac. I…’

‘Kim? Kim? Kim! Repeat last, please? We thought we heard the word “evac”? Do you need evac? Kim?’

‘—–’

‘Kim, please come in. This is Low Base. Come in, please.’

  ‘—–’

‘Kim?’

‘—–’

‘Kim, come in. God fucking damnit, can someone please clean up this-’

‘Low Base. This is Kim.’

‘Kim? What happened?’

‘It’s fine. Everything’s fine.’

‘Are you sure? We-’

‘I’m sure. It’s not here to hurt us.’

‘It? What do you mean? Have you encountered-’

‘The birds were necessary. An unfortunate but necessary side effect. We shouldn’t be concerned. Ignore the pictures.’

‘A side effect of what? Kim, you don’t sound right. I’m sending the pod.’

‘It’s fine. It just needs us to listen.’

‘Kim, you’re not filling me with confidence. Samson, prep the pod as fast as you can.’

‘We’re coming back.’

‘Who’s “we”? Kim, you can’t-’

‘—–’

‘Kim? Kim?’

‘—–’

‘Kim? She… wait… what the hell was-’


PROMPTPhotographing the last birds left on earth, Kim discovers the new species that’s wiping them out.