A typically dark prompt from @brainmage led to an equally dark story from @notquitecool in this #SFSwap entry – I won’t say much more as the prompt here had an implicit twist, but hopefully it’ll make you do a little shudder!
STORY NUMBER: 25
PROMPT PROVIDER: @brainmage
TITLE: The Secret Fuel
“Just follow me this way” the women who had just introduced herself as Janice said, beckoning past a set of double doors.
Ruth rose from the creaky seat in reception, brushed down her blouse – bought specifically for this new job – and followed Janice into the building. The whole place a dark and dingy affair.
Despite a front of the building made entirely of glass, the inside was mostly unpainted steel walls and a concrete floor. It was also unnaturally warm and stuffy. Ruth could feel the sweat already prickle her skin.
“This place is no looker, I tell you, but you’re going to be doing important work. Work that has allowed Global Energy Corp. to help the world for over two millennia. Did you read the pamphlet?”
Janice looked at Ruth expectedly, a fake smile curling her lips.
Ruth hadn’t read the pamphlet, but she wasn’t going to risk removing that smile.
“Sure did.” she sang, matching Janice’s fake smile.
“Great. So you know that GEC has been providing energy to 86% of the world’s population for a very long time. Sure, our techniques have changed, but the core resource has remained the same. A resource that we keep incredible secret.”
Janice stopped so abruptly that Ruth almost crashed into her. As Ruth back away, Janice spun like a soldier on guard duty. Looked Ruth dead in the eye.
“I need you to say the following words after me. I promise to never reveal the secret behind GEC’s power source.”
Ruth parroted the phrase back to her, the rebel in her psyche wanting to cross her fingers behind her back. Once she was done, Janice pointed upwards towards a camera attached to the ceiling.
“Better than a legal contract.” Janice said, her face now stern “We now have proof of exactly when and how you promised to keep your new job confidential. We will press charges if this confidentiality is breached. Understood?”
Ruth just nodded, and then suddenly Janice’s smile was back.
“Wonderful!” she chimed, before spinning 90 degrees and placing her hand against one part of the steel wall. A light above them flashed green, and the wall opened like a door.
Ruth wanted time to be amazed but was already being led through a hallway filled with numbered doors. After another couple of minutes of walking and hearing about the philosophy of the company – “free energy for all” – they stopped in front of a white door with the number 29 on it.
Ruth was handed a pair of goggles and a pair of thick white gloves, both of which she put on, confused.
“This is your work station. It used to belong to Jack, but unfortunately he had a small fall and decided that it was time to collect early retirement.”
“I’m sorry, I just need to stop for a moment. I thought I was going to be looking after a nursery. Like the company nursery? I’m a teacher. Why do I have a station? Why do I have goggles?”
In answer to Ruth’s question, Janice just pushed a button next to the door making it slide open. Janice gestured for Ruth to walk inside, which she tentatively did.
Station 29 was, in fact, a type of nursery. The walls were painted pastel yellow, with a mural of sheep and shepherds. Toys littered the floor; wooden blocks and plastic trains and cotton dolls all in various states of disarray.
And in the centre of the room, on a large, soft blanket, lay 4 small children. Kind of.
“What are they?”
The creatures that were sleeping in the centre of the room would look like regular children except for their bright yellow skin and a crown of horns that protruded from their head. They looked like baby demons.
“These are young Entoxii. Our best guess is that they came from a nearby star system. Their species came to Earth in 45BC, which you’ll also remember is the year that our company started.”
“They started the company?”
“No, of course not. They just gave us a lot of the technology that we needed. They explained how energy worked, how to harness the power of fire and steam to power our machines. They were far more advanced than the primitive humans that they met.”
One of the Entoxii children stirred, and Ruth could see they they had no teeth.
“They also multiply at an extraordinary rate. Every 12 hours, an Entoxii will split into two separate entities. This is how they reproduce; no mother, no father, just duplication.”
“They’re…extraordinary…” Ruth found herself say, unable to take her eyes of this new life form in front of her. She’d found herself walking towards them and was seeing how adorable they looked. She watched as their chests rose and fell with each breath.
“They’re also going to be a handful. You have four right now. Very soon, you’ll have eight and by tomorrow you’ll have sixteen.”
“Will they be hard to look after?” One of them had opened its eyes. It looked up at Ruth with wonder, making a curious gurgling sound.
“You won’t have to worry. When the numbers reach twenty or more, you call the Energy Conversion Team. They’ll help you keep the numbers down.”
Ruth smiled at the little creature, almost not catching what Janice said.
“The Energy Conversion Team?”
“Yes, the ECT. You’ll be given their number this afternoon after you fill in your payroll details.”
“And they’ll be taken to other nurseries? I guess that’s why you have so many doors.”
For a moment Janice didn’t reply, tilting her head as if she was unsure what Ruth had said. Then slowly, as if speaking to a child, she said “This is an energy company.”
Ruth had one of the Entoxii children in her arms now. She bounced it up and down as it made cooing noises.
“These are the fuel.”
PROMPT: Mankind met sentient alien life 2000 years ago and are using them as fuel.