“Dying for Dinosaurs” by Joshua Scully

Paleontologist Alma Ojeda was a veteran of countless excavations in her native country. She had established herself quickly in her field when she helped to unearth the largest Argentinosaurus ever found while working on her doctorate at the University of Córdoba.

However, Argentina was literally no less than a world away from Mars, and this was her first dig on the surface of the Red Planet. Ojeda found this distant location offered both benefits and challenges.

Due to the weaker gravity, tools and equipment were easily moved on the Martian surface. The ancient rock and sand lifted away from the desertscape without much difficulty. 

On the other hand, her pressure suit made nearly every movement awkward and uneven. There was also an ever-present need to change oxygen canisters. Temperamental dust storms kicked up with alarming frequency, often obscuring progress. 

The good and bad attributes of this particular project aside, Ojeda was certain her colleagues back on Earth – some sixty million kilometers away – could hear her shout with ecstasy when history changed before her eyes just west of Ascraeus Mons. 

“Look at this!” 

Peter Harland, the mission commander and Alma Ojeda’s excavation partner, turned away from an aluminum sifting apparatus and covered the distance to Alma in several careful strides.

“Vertebrae,” Ojeda whispered. “Nearly identical to the images taken by the rovers.”

As she spoke, whirling dust from a butterscotch sky partially covered the discovery.

“And this is why we’re here,” Harland muttered. “The rovers just aren’t quick enough.”

Moving his satchel of tools closer to Ojeda, Harland tossed aside a mattock and selected a small trowel from the sack.

“I almost can’t believe how near this is to the surface,” Harland commented. 

“Look!” Ojeda exclaimed again. She worked a small brush over a final vertebra to reveal the base of a skull. Harland eagerly joined her. The pair carefully worked crimson rock away from the find.

Harland paused momentarily to press a small button on the side of his helmet. This temporarily boosted his transmitter. 

“Quinlan, I’m sure you’re reading us?”

Michael Quinlan, the communications officer and pilot, replied almost immediately from the observation compartment onboard their lander.

“I’ve heard everything,” Quinlan answered in a clear voice. “I’m suiting up now to come out and have a look for myself. I should be there in twenty minutes.”

“Perfect,” Harland replied. 

As the paleontologists eagerly revealed more of the skull, both took a moment to speculate.

“Therapod?” Peter noted as he traded the trowel for a chisel from his satchel. “What do you think?”

“Allosaur?” Ojeda responded with a question of her own.

“I told you about that site I worked at in Oklahoma as part of my training,” Harland replied. “We found a nearly complete Saurophaganax. The similarities are striking.”

“The panspermia school back home is going to get quite a boost,” Ojeda added. “Convergent evolution to an extreme.”

“Right,” Harland affirmed, “and I don’t remember Genesis saying anything about God sending life to Mars, either. Regardless, convergent evolution for certain. Some folks back home are going to be awfully angry.”

Both paleontologists–turned–xenopaleontologists scowled at this thought. The most ardent detractors of their mission to confirm the potential existence of fossilized remains on the Martian surface were the Abramaic Purists. These religious fanatics had created a powerful political organization and were very hostile to the notion of extraterrestrial life.  

As Ojeda and Harland continued their work, a complete fossilized creature began to take shape. Their discovery would have looked perfectly at home if unearthed in Alberta or Montana, but somehow seeing the bones against the red rock and muddled yellow sky made the pair somehow uneasy.

“Aside from the obvious, this completely changes everything we know about the Hesperian and Amazonian periods,” Ojeda remarked concerning geological periods on Mars. “Processes could have brought this to the surface, but I have a feeling this is early Amazonian.”

“Imagine the fallout,” Harland replied. “Most texts about this planet back home might as well be used for kindling.” 

Ojeda nodded and carefully used a small brush to remove fine extraterrestrial soil from the teeth of a carnivorous dinosaur that had once roamed the coast of an ancient Martian sea. 

“Amazing,” Ojeda observed quietly. “I can’t imagine what this planet is hiding.”

“I can’t either,” Harland agreed.

“I can.”

The voice of Michael Quinlan suddenly sounded inside the helmets of the two enchanted academics. Quinlan stood just a few feet away. His outstretched arm wasn’t offering a fresh oxygen canister or spare trowel. The pilot instead firmly held the single emergency firearm from the lander.

Surprised by the sudden and threatening appearance of the pilot, Ojeda dropped the brush and fell backward in a small cloud of dust.

“What the hell?” Harland asked flatly as he pushed himself off the ground. He formed two gloved fists as he fully stood. “Drop that!”

“Both of you need to come back to the lander with me now,” Quinlan ordered. “I’ll put you in stasis. We’re returning to Earth.”

“What are you talking about?” Ojeda asked. “That’s insane! Do you realize what we’ve found?”

“I realize exactly what you found, and the agency knows some back home aren’t ready for this,” Quinlan calmly offered. 

“I doubt the agency has a problem,” Harland countered. 

Quinlan shrugged and offered a slight smile. He pointed the firearm squarely at the mission commander.

Harland took a small step forward toward the pilot. Quinlan stepped back.

“Peter, you don’t have to die out here,” Quinlan warned, “but I have permission to shoot both of you if necessary.” 

“I don’t understand,” Ojeda stammered from behind Harland. She was still on the ground, crawling around the discovery as if she meant to shield the find from Quinlan.

“You both need to come with me,” Quinlan repeated. “In the event of a discovery of this magnitude, I was to return both of you to stasis immediately. The agency needs time to assess this situation.”

“Like hell!” Harland barked. “I didn’t risk my life to be a footnote on some conspiracy theory!”

“Stand back!” Quinlan shouted before retreating another step.

Launching each arm into motion, Harland released two handfuls of sand toward Quinlan as he charged forward. The rusty cloud bought the commander the necessary second that he needed to reach out for the firearm. 

Quinlan turned to shield himself, and the two men struggled as much as the gravity and their pressure suits would allow. The firearm discharged into the ground. The sound from the blast traveled with leisure through the thin Martian atmosphere. 

After another discharge, Quinlan managed to twist out of Harland’s grasp, sending his commander slowly to the ground. As he raised the firearm to shoot Harland, a strange reflection caught his eye.

This glare was created by the steel head of the mattock that Harland had tossed aside earlier. The discarded tool was now a weapon in the hands of Alma Ojeda, who would later be known for having discovered the largest dinosaurs specimens on Earth and Mars.

The pointed end of the mattock struck the center of Quinlan’s vision. The pilot dropped the firearm and screamed, pressing his hands over the spidering crack that the mattock had created on his visor.

Within seconds the pilot dropped to his knees as glass exploded, allowing the pressurized interior of his suit to escape into the Martian atmosphere.

As the sweat on Quinlan’s forehead and the saliva on his tongue boiled, Ojeda helped Harland to his feet. Ojeda secured and aimed the emergency firearm, firing the one shot needed to end Quinlan’s misery.

Ojeda looked down at the collapsed pilot next to the fossilized Martian dinosaur.

“Concurrent life,” she said to herself.

“We need to photograph everything,” Harland observed. “If Quinlan was right about the agency, surely we’ve got to be able to contact someone else back home. The world has to know what we’ve found.”

Ojeda nodded and turned away from the dead pilot. She looked down the gentle slope of Ascraeus Mons toward the lander. 

She wondered if Michael Quinlan was the first human to die on Mars. Of course, none of the previous missions had suffered a fatality on the Martian surface, but she suspected there were yet significant discoveries to be made on the Red Planet. 

*

Joshua Scully (@jojascully) is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His writes fiction and loves a good anachronism. 

IMG_2133

Artwork provided by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

“Two Months of Tales” (continued)

Workshop (@TETWorkshop) concludes a sampling of content published over the last two months with three final examples.

Biographical information for the author is shared beneath each piece.

The first half of “Two Months of Tales” is also available.

~~~

He likened his job to a beachcomber with a metal detector. Occasionally, he’d find jewelry, crowns, or medical devices. This time, he found only pins. When his haul was this minimal, he daydreamed he was at the beach instead of running the magnet in the cooling cremation chamber.

Michael Carter is a short fiction and creative nonfiction writer with a metal bar in his chest. He’s also a ghostwriter in the legal profession and a Space Camp alum. He’s online at michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter. 

~~~

On their date she smiled, but never showed her teeth. Maybe she was coy—hard to say when you met on an app. 
When he leaned in for a kiss, he learned the truth. He saw them as she parted her lips. Glittering & razor sharp. 
He admired her teeth before they tore out his tongue.

Sarah Skiles is a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her “#VSS365” microfiction and tweets about weird food cravings can be found @sarahskiles. 

~~~

After taking a fastball to the temple, he was fortunate to be able to stay in the game. 
He took his base, trotting down the first baseline. 
The afternoon had become wonderfully sunny. 
And was that Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb? 
Wow! Unreal!
He thought those guys were dead.

Joshua Scully is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His fiction can be found @jojascully.

Workshop2MonthsTales-CoverAmandaBergloff

Artwork courtesy of Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff).

“Unearthly Hues of Cyan” by Joshua Scully

The extraction of helium – 3 from Uranus was entirely automated, leaving Emily Rockwood too much time to think. Along with two other technicians, she was assigned to the observation and recovery station that lazily orbited the seventh planet of the solar system. Aside from a few daily tasks and the rare repair of a drone or probe, there was little responsibility for the station crew. 


A single transmission to Earth took three hours – with another three hours necessarily for even the most immediate reply – preventing the technicians from regular contact with loved ones back home. Rockwood received few communications, but she assumed her family didn’t want to distract her from her responsibilities with frivolous gossip and announcements.


Of course, the other two technicians were not the social sort. John Terry, an older man near the end of his spacefaring career, hardly spoke and seemed more machine than human. Tyler Donaldson, the station commander, was a company crank through and through. Every dull word that came out of his mouth seemed read from an invisible script.


Rockwood often lounged in the common, a small rectangular room that housed the extent of entertainment and exercise equipment available. Windows stretched from floor to ceiling along one wall, allowing any visitor the opportunity to glimpse a robotic miner zipping back and forth between the massive cyan orb below and the station. However, Uranus absolutely dominated this view at any given time. Even the occasional extraction probe or droid that came into view hardly obscured the featureless expanse.


Whenever Rockwood wasn’t on duty, there was little else to do but sleep, eat, or bath in the cyan glow of the host planet. Even if she tried to exercise or download a briefing from Earth, Uranus loomed in her peripheral vision. The common was a comfortable space though, and she found herself occasionally dozing there as opposed to her quarters.


When she had first arrived at the station, she really wasn’t able to discern any features in the cold, dead atmosphere that loomed beyond. However, as the months passed, her eyes became more familiar with the bland world, and she believed she could detect the faintest white swirls or occasional darker patches. These rare and fleeting dark spots were closer in shade to the egg of a robin than anything else. 


Terry and Donaldson rarely disturbed Rockwood during her visits to the common. Both men seemed content to remain in quarters or in the maintenance bay. Her fellow technicians only concerned themselves with the the various droids and probes that slowly sucked away the lifeblood of the planet.


The cyan and white swirls of Uranus became even more distinct with time. Rockwood assumed this change was a result of the extraction process. The darker patches of the planet gradually grew more obvious, too. She shared this observation with Donaldson, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.


During her lonely stretches of personal time, Rockwood found herself scanning the sphere for those darker regions. These strange discolorations were more apparent with every viewing and seemed to be taking certain shapes.


Donaldson refused to acknowledge the bizarre changes in the atmosphere of Uranus. Rockwood attempted to bring this up during routine conversation, but the station commander only repeated his usual rhetoric about the importance of appropriate rest and recreation on the station. Despite his dismissal, Rockwood continued her study of the planet.


Within a few days, great eye sockets, a gaping nasal opening, and a mouth fixed in a jagged grin appeared within the swirling gases. This inhuman manifestation had coalesced from the darkest cyan hues present in the atmosphere. 


There was no doubt the expression was threatening and directed at the station. Mankind had attacked this icy world, and now the planet desired to retaliate. 


Rockwood wondered if the others knew about this obvious sentience. 


The answer quickly rushed into her mind. Of course this extraterrestrial intelligence was known to Earth. She didn’t doubt the helium-3 extraction process was a cover to allow for the study of the entity possessing the planet. She quickly decided Terry was an android, programmed to do whatever bidding Donaldson requested. She knew that Donaldson was very much aware of the conspiracy and that he would do anything to stop her from interfering.


Emily Rockwood, a novice selected for this mission because she was probably unexpected to possess much gumption, rushed for the emergency escape craft. She locked herself inside, disabled the autopilot, and ignited the engine. A garbled, confused voice crackled over the transmitter. This was undoubtedly Donaldson trying to stop her.


He was too late. He had radically underestimated her. 


She manually guided the craft toward the gibbering face, which had only recently gained a deep demonic voice. She ignored the various warnings about pressure that flashed on the display in front of her, and she easily dodged a few probes that rushed to stop her. These crafts were obviously tapped into whatever programming directed the mechanical John Terry.  
.
Emily Rockwood decided she would sacrifice herself to save mankind from whatever evil menace lurked deep within the cyan clouds of Uranus. The emergency craft was an unfailing missile strike in her hands.


She only hoped her real story may one day be known.


*

Joshua Scully (@jojascully) is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His writes fiction and loves a good anachronism. 


UnearthlyHuesOfCyan-SCULLY-CoverABergloff

Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@Amanda Bergloff).

 

“Two Months of Tales”

Workshop (@TETWorkshop) is pleased to present a sampling of the very short fiction published three times per week on Twitter.

Biographical information for the author is shared beneath each piece.

The second half of “Two Months of Tales” is also available.

~~~

“Which wire? Red or blue?”
The transmitter inside the armored van gushed with the frantic breathing of the explosive ordnance disposal specialist.
“Oh, there isn’t a green one?”
He had reason to be heartless. The EOD had an affair with his wife.
And you can’t defuse them all.

S.S. Sanderson (@SSSanderson2) writes fiction and lives a life that looks better on paper.

~~~

She went running after dark, & her headlamp swayed through the park. Trees rose in every direction & almost trapped her.
At night, branches & leaves brushed against her window.
Things returned to normal on her way to work.
She opened the office door, & a forest loomed behind.

Dennis Mombauer (@DMombauer) currently lives in Colombo as a freelance writer of fiction, textual experiments, reviews & essays. Co-publisher of novelle.wtf. Homepage & newsletter under dennismombauer.com.

~~~

“Our basement is haunted by the ghost of Antonio López de Santa Anna.”
“Isn’t that a little specific?”
Without hesitation, the birthday boy opened the basement door.
“Remember the Alamo!” he shouted.
The party guests chuckled.
Floating epaulettes hid behind the washing machine.

Joshua Scully is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His fiction can be found @jojascully.

Workshop2MonthsTales-CoverAmandaBergloff

Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

June 11, 2018 Performance Introduction

The Evening Theatre is proud to present the first of two June performances. Selected pieces from Workshop (@TETWorkshop) will bookend the acts selected for this evening.

Workshop is an online journal that utilizes Twitter as a publishing platform. The Evening Theatre launched this new endeavor two months ago and has already published over twenty “very short fiction” pieces. The limitations of Twitter (280 characters or less) challenge authors to be concise and direct. 

“Two Months of Tales” is a sampling of the pieces published by Workshop and includes short fiction from Michael Carter (@mcmichaelcarter), Dennis Mombauer (@DMombauer), S.S. Sanderson (@SSSanderson2), Joshua Scully (@jojascully), and Sarah Skiles (@sarahskiles).

Between selections from Workshop, The Evening Theatre presents pieces from Frieda D. Taller (@foxyfridz), Joshua Scully (@jojascully), and Damon Garn (@dmgwrites). This performance includes poetry, prose, and the continuation of a wonderfully hilarious saga. Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff) was again kind enough to provide original artwork for this performance.

The lineup for our June 11, 2018 performance:

Opening Act: “Two Months of Tales

First Act: “Lost Girl” by Frieda D. Taller

Second Act: “Unearthly Hues of Cyan” by Joshua Scully

Headliner: “The Great Cherry Battle” by Damon Garn

Encore: “Two Months of Tales” (continued)

TETJune2018-CoverAmandaBergloff

Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

 

“Montanha do Aranha” by Joshua Scully

A smoldering volcano dominated the horizon. Beyond a golden beach and a jumble of trees, the crown of the immense geological rupture was all that Ivo could see. The towering cone was flanked by a patchwork of ancient sepia and sienna flows, bringing to mind similar summits in the Azores.
 O
Ivo initially paid little mind to the smoking mountain. The tattered remnants of his clothing and the scorching sun seized his senses before he could genuinely assess his surroundings. He was grateful to be alive, drenched and nearly naked or not.
 O
Both Mira and Nelas were gone from view. Painfully aware that Mira was at the bottom of the South Sea, Ivo prayed that Nelas had not joined her sister. The other ship was his only hope of rescue.
 O
Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish fleet had just beaten the storm, but his Portuguese pursuers were not so fortunate. Several crewmembers from Mira had washed up on the beach of this small isle with Ivo, and the sea had stripped and battered each man.
 O
Once regaining his strength, Ivo inspected the bodies on the beach. Most were lifeless, but there were two exceptions. Adriano and Martim, childhood friends from Porto, were breathing but unconscious.
 O
Ivo dragged his countrymen from the blazing heat and into the shade of the closest palms. Contemplating how he might attract a rescue, he imagined constructing a massive fire on the beach. The flames and smoke would hopefully be visible from the sea. There was no doubt that the volcano lurking behind his shady refuge was impossible to miss.
 O
Bold crustaceans and seabirds readily plied the beach as Ivo watched from between the unresponsive Adriano and Martim. These creatures poked and pried the dead seaman, evaluating the potential for a meal. Without the strength to chase the scavengers, he could only watch as nature slowly seized the bloated remains of his dead companions.
 O
However, the island proved wildly temperamental. The ocean had presented a drowned banquet for the various beach foragers, only for the earth to rumble and scatter the opportunists. Ivo had drifted to sleep against the trunk of an impressive palm, but this tremor immediately roused him.
 O
A second quake followed. 
 O
Finding the strength to gain his feet, he stood and observed a dark, ominous cloud emitting from the volcano.
O
Reinvigorated, Ivo decided that he would gather wood and fresh water, both of which were necessary to survive even a few days on the island. He checked to make sure that Adriano and Martim were safely positioned away from any encroaching waves or menacing island fauna before stepping beyond the first row of palms.
 O
The incessant roar of the South Sea was quickly replaced with the hums, buzzes, and squawks of an island forest. A variety of insects bolted between trees. Various birds darted after their hexapod prey.
 O
“Birds – of – paradise!” Ivo exclaimed. He had before only ever observed drawings or heard descriptions of the beautiful plumage possessed by these birds.
 O
Within a few steps, Ivo was amazed by the number of mangoes, breadfruits, and coconuts ripe for the picking. He certainly had no concerns regarding the availability of wood or food. This island, although minuscule in size, was teeming with life. 
 O
“Shipwrecked in paradise,” Ivo said to himself. He sighed in relief.
 O
An easy climb up any number of nearby trees could provide a healthy meal for ten men.
Reminding Ivo that he was stranded in no dreamscape, the ground beneath his feet trembled and shook. Although he managed to keep his feet, the entire island went silent.
 O
A distinct trepidation had seized nature.
 O
If an eruption was imminent, Ivo and his fellow survivors needed a rescue much sooner than later. He pushed forward through vines and branches. The terrain offered a steady uphill climb, but the journey was easy enough.
 O
There seemed to be few land creatures. Occasional bones scattered between trees surely belonged to birds or reptiles. Ivo stumbled upon larger bones only rarely. He suspected these were the remains of some mammal, perhaps even a monkey. However, he did not cross paths with a single creature, bird or otherwise, much larger than his hand.
 O
Ivo wondered through the forest for at least an hour before he heard the subtle trickling that no subterranean growl could ever quiet. A stream bubbled through the earth at the crest of a low hill.
 O
Ivo cupped his hands and scooped water from the stream. Even a distant rumble from the volcano failed to take his mind off the delicious liquid.
O
“Water,” he whispered to himself. “Salvation.”
 O
Ivo drank from the stream for some time and debated how he might move Adriano and Martim to this particular spot. He glanced around for the simplest approach through the trees. 
 O
In one direction, which Ivo reckoned to be north, his eyes caught distant blue, brown, and white flashes between trunks and branches.
 O
The blue was nothing more than the sea, to which Ivo was much closer than he expected. He quickly surmised that the spring must be near a bay or cove that allowed the sea to penetrate the isle. The brown and white patches were what really dazzled his mind.
O
These colors were produced by the hull and sails of a ship.
 O
Nelas!” Ivo shouted. “Nelas!”
 O
The ship had obviously sought shelter from the gale in this natural harbor and had unfurled all sails to slip back out to sea. Any nearby volcano was certainly a cause for concern, even for a caravel at anchor. Thoughts of fresh water, coconuts, and of fellow survivors were dashed from Ivo’s mind. He absolutely had to get to the beach before the ship slipped out of the cove.
 O
Stumbling to his feet, he rushed forward. His elation made him less aware of his surroundings and, after just a few strides, he struck a dangling branch. Attempting to spin away from the collision at the last second, he lost his balance and tumbled to the ground.
 O
Relieved that he had not struck his head, Ivo slowly stood. Stepping to restart his running pace, he was jerked backward. He grimaced and looked down, intending to untangle the offending vine or snap some stubborn branch.
 O
However, there was no vine or branch, but only a soft mass stuck to his chest. The object appeared to be the combination of gooey unripe breadfruit and sticky cannonball.
 O
Ivo gripped the gunmetal sphere and offered a firm pull. The surface of the ball seemed to be bonded to his flesh. He felt his skin suddenly release a thousand beads of sweat. The Nelas was not going to wait for him. 
 O
He pulled again to no avail. His hand became just as stuck to this strange glob as the skin covering his right pectoral.
 O
A sinewy thread was attached to the orb, perhaps double the diameter of his thumb. This thread was of a similar color and, Ivo suspected, composition. He looked up to see that the thread disappeared in a tangle of branches far above his head.
 O
Ivo wondered if the dangling thread was only tree sap or, more menacingly, an adhesive rope designed by unseen natives. He looked out beyond the edge of the forest to see Nelas slowly sailing out of the cove. Panicking, he scoured the ground for any stone or splinter of wood that he might use to cut himself free.
 O
Already a relatively tall man, Ivo appeared to become somehow taller while searching. A corresponding pain as the tissue of his chest strained to support his weight assured him that this was no trick of the eye. The sticky glob was lifting him toward the mesh of branches over his head. Throwing his free hand upward and grabbing the thread, he allowed this hand to become stuck to the snare in exchange for an opportunity to pull himself up higher. This lessened the strain on his chest and the resulting motion prompted a plan of action.
 O
When Ivo was again lifted upward a few feet, he held firmly to the thread and globule with both hands while extending his legs. Whipping his lower body backward before extending again, he produced a considerable swing. He continued this motion, producing a wider and wider arc with each forward thrust. When the arc brought him closest to the sea, he called out.
 O
Nelas! Hey!”
 O
His mind imagined bloodthirsty cannibals pulling him onto some treetop butcher block. Gladly accepting escape in any form, he continued to kick and swing. 
 O
The extent of his arc brought him closer to the trunks of several robust trees. Ivo hoped he might be able to wrap his legs around one of these trunks, entangling the gooey ball and thread in a few sturdy branches so to provide time for an escape.
O
However, as he kicked and twisted his body to increase the range of his arc, Ivo realized that he was ascending at a far more rapid pace.
 O
Nelas!” 
 O
The volcano grumbled in the distance and, for a moment, his ascent ceased. At the greatest forward extent of Ivo’s swing, the soles of his feet slipped over the scaly bark of the trees he so desperately sought.
 O
When the mountain again fell silent, Ivo was jerked upward. Although far enough off the ground that a fall could easily result in his death, he continued to swing and looked upward to face his attacker. With most of the sticky thread now pulled into the branches above him, his arc became shorter and reaching the safety of the trees was no longer realistic.
 O
Thin brown arms occasionally dipped below the branches above Ivo’s head, and the sailor’s mind returned to stories of island cannibals hungrily devouring unfortunate men. The islands of the South Sea were unknown and distant places to most seaman. There was no imaging what awaited him within the mesh of those branches.
 O
Ivo shouted, leaned, and kicked. He looked up again and caught a glimpse of an eye.
 O
Two eyes. Then four.
 O
Six eyes. Then eight.
 O
The slender arms multiplied in a similar way. At this distance, Ivo could see that the arms were covered in fine hairs. 
 O
He wasn’t the potential prey of a clan of tree-dwelling islanders.
 O
Ivo had walked into the snare of a gigantic spider. An arachnid easily the size of a man was reeling him into a treetop nest, not unlike a hungry fisherman with a plump trout on his line.
 O
“Adriano! Martim!” Ivo cried. His distant shipmates offered no reply.
 O
A furry head burst through the branches above Ivo. Eight soulless eyes longingly stared back at him. Mandibles chirped, clicked, and dripped venom. The slimy substance dropped onto Ivo’s face and shoulders.
 O
Ivo desperately tried to twist away, but his arms and legs were exhausted and there was genuinely nowhere to flee. He dangled precariously with no hope of freeing himself. When the first spindly arm touched the hand that he had earlier purposefully stuck to the thread, Ivo screamed. He shrieked so loudly that even another rumble from the volcano did not silence him. 
 O
The spider lurched forward, careful not to lose purchase on the branches, and extended two pearly appendages from hairy pedipalps. The creature sank both fangs into Ivo’s extended arm, puncturing forearm flesh between the wrist and elbow. The ensuing pain was intense but faded quickly. He bled very little despite the fact that each fang looked comparable to his great toe.
 O
Bluish goo dripped from the wound. The spider retreated back into the branches, although the awful creature remained incredibly close and in plain view.
 O
Ivo shouted and growled at the creature. He showed his teeth and wiggled his fatigued body. He did everything and anything possible to appear threatening.
 O
The spider didn’t move but only observed from a short distance. From this vantage, Ivo was able to see that the sticky glob and thread were anchored to the branches below the spider. 
 O
He wondered if he could break those branches.
 O
When the volcano trembled again, Ivo watched the spider cower and slip backward for a moment. The unfortunate sailor resolved to summon his remaining strength and kick upward the next time that the volcano disturbed the island. With any luck, he could contort his body and lift his legs up toward the spider. Once having seized the branches between his thighs and feet, he could snap the limbs supporting the spider and thread anchor.
 O
If successful, he would fall headfirst to the ground with the creature. Ivo immediately deemed that preferable to whatever fate the spider intended for him in the treetops.
The entire island shuttered. This particular tremor sounded incredibly deep. There was no longer a doubt in Ivo’s mind that the volcano would soon erupt and, quite possibly, send the entire island beneath the waves.
 O
When the spider again recoiled, Ivo immediately seized the opportunity. Supporting his weight with his stuck hands, Ivo flexed his abdomen and whipped his legs toward the arachnid. However, his entire design was interrupted by a sudden faintness that whirled into his mind.
 O
This hesitation allowed his attention to settle on the discoloration advancing down his extended arm. Near the puncture arms, the flesh of his forearm was swollen and purple. This repugnant deformation included his hand and reached down to his elbow. An unrelenting horror tickled his heart when he realized the gruesome transformation was slowly spreading toward his shoulder.
 O
Ivo screamed again, but little more than a strained yelp emerged from his mouth. His fatigued body seemed impossible to move.
 O
Regaining a measure of confidence, the spider scurried forward toward its dangling prey. Eight eyes watched as the injected venom softened the nearest tissue. Not even another volcanic groan stopped the creature from pulling apart furry pedipalps to reveal bony chelicerae. The arachnid maneuvered these glistening projections toward the plump, purple flesh nearest to it and put its grinding jaws to work.
 O
Ivo watched for a brief second as the swollen appendages that were once the fingers on his left hand disappeared between quickly chopping hooks deep within the mouth of the spider. His bones had softened to the point that only the faintest splintering was audible. Largely congealed blood occasionally dripped down his arm. The scene was enough to induce vomiting, as Ivo’s insides forced out a seething mass of purplish slime.
 O
Moving his focus in the direction of the volcano, Ivo prayed some eruption might consign this dreadful island and the resident spider to the South Sea. His heart fluttered fitfully and his vision seemed to fade.
 O
Attempting to ignore the grinding sound above him, Ivo thought about Adriano and Martim. His mind soon wandered elsewhere. Briefly, his thoughts returned to the house in Porto where he grew up. He was on his father’s knee again, listening to a story about João Corte-Real and some far off land to the west.
 O
The island shook fiercely. Ivo returned to reality, hoping that his deliverance was at hand. The spider was, by that time, well beyond his hand and grinding away at what had been the forearm of a Portuguese sailor sent to chase Ferdinand Magellan around the world. 
 O
Ivo made a final appeal to the Virgin Mary. His last wish was that the innards of the Earth intervened before the creature reached his head.
 O
For a moment, all was quiet except for the fiendish feasting of the horrible predator. The bristly hairs of the great arachnid brushed against the cheek of the poor sailor. Ivo could not help but notice the entirety of his left arm had disappeared into the mouth of his tormentor.
 O
Ivo drifted into unconsciousness just as the fury of Mother Nature erupted through the island. 
 O
MontanhaDoAranha-SCULLY-CoverABergloff

Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff).

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Joshua Scully (@jojascully) is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His writes fiction and loves a good anachronism. 

 

An Introduction to Our May 2018 Performance

The Evening Theatre offers a dark turn for this performance. While some lightheartedness certainly remains, there are dire and apocalyptic implications at the core of these tales. Mankind is threatened. The world is undone. Even our concept of reality is distorted beyond recognition. 

We again bring our readers a mixture of familiar and new authors. Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff) has returned to provide her wonderful artwork for this performance. Her work is always impressive and suits the overall tone for tonight very well. 

This performance includes a double feature and marks the first foray for The Evening Theatre into the realm of prequels and sequels. 

LiAnnah Jameson (@annah_li) opens the performance tonight just after 10:00pm. Her piece involves a chilling internal conflict that may secretly exist in any of us. S.S. Sanderson (@SSSanderson2) offers a diabolical prequel to his piece that appeared with us last month (“The Keycard is Always in the Morgue“). Russell Armstrong (@RussWritesWell) will pull you in with a wonderfully fascinating jester (we bet you can’t read this one just once).

A double feature was possible this evening thanks to two returning authors. Joshua Scully (@jojascully) and Damon Garn (@dmgwrites) appeared with us for the first time last month. The former brings a spine-tingling tale of tropical horror, while the latter provides a wildly entertaining sequel to “The Misplaced Tower” (which appeared in our April 2018 performance). Dennis Mombauer (@DMombauer) concludes the show tonight with an unnerving visit to the very fringe of reality. 

The performance lineup for May 2018:

Opening Act – “Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell” by by LiAnnah Jameson

First Act – “Railroaders’ Disease” by S.S. Sanderson

The Jester – “You Are What You Eat” by Russell Armstrong

First Feature – “Montanha do Aranha” by Joshua Scully

Second Feature – “One Slick Dragon” by Damon Garn

The Encore – “The Tyrant and the Fog” by Dennis Mombauer

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Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff).

“Exploring a Frozen World” by Joshua Scully

Freed from parachute material, restrictive connections, and the general confines of the lander, a roving probe hummed to life and rolled onto the frigid surface of a new world.

Given the distance involved, there had never existed any hope to remotely pilot the rover. The small six-wheeled vehicle was programmed to forge a path through this frozen world, while using three cameras to photograph the vast white expanses surrounding the lander.

Photographs captured by the rover would first be relayed to the lander. An array on the lander had the capacity to communicate the images back home. The enormity of space required that visions of this extraterrestrial winterscape travel many light-years, not arriving until long after the rover ceased to function. Despite the apparent cold, this particular planet existed within the habitable zone of main sequence star. Data collected by the lander and rover, no matter how scant, may determine this world deserved a closer consideration in the never-ending search for life in the cosmos, or, perhaps more importantly, the discovery of specific qualities may well earmark this far-flung planet for future colonization. 

A shrill wind immediately forced the heating units on the rover to activate. Solar panels mounted to the rover charged these units and powered motors that propelled the wheels. A single hathium cytrate battery enabled the cameras to function. Once that battery was exhausted, the rover would wonder blindly as a handful of far more trivial instruments monitored atmospheric and meteorological conditions for as long as possible.  

Wasting no opportunities, the computer onboard the rover immediately resolved to begin snapping photographs while the alloy wheels rolled ancient snow and ice. The lander directed the rover toward an interesting feature in the distance: an active volcano. Extraterrestrial volcanism was always a worthwhile subject of investigation, and the appearance of the smoking mountain in an otherwise barren, harsh world seemed as reasonable a location to search for life as any other visible point.

As the rover slowly rolled toward the towering slope in the distance, blowing snow periodically threatened the solar panels. If the panels were to be covered, the small craft would cease to move. Fortune proved supportive of discovery, as the very gusts that brought the snow also later cleared the panels.

Whenever the whiteout conditions relented, the host star shined brightly, allowing the rover to frantically snap photographs. 

Such dazzling sunlight piqued sensors on the rover to scan for liquid water. With such consistent heat, the extremities of the enormous glaciers that dominated the surface surely periodically melted.  

As time passed, the instrumentation on the rover failed to detect liquid water. However, there was a starling determination: the rover had reached sea ice. The surface had quickly become a frozen sea. 

Although the wind refused to abate, the diminutive rover approached the lowest levels of the volcano’s mighty form. A great plume of smoke emitting from the caldera was captured from the rover’s cameras and communicated to the lander.

The rover now faced a nearly impossible challenge: scaling the towering flanks to the summit. Great cavern systems or pools of primordial magma could easily be discovered and assessed in route. Of course, this was highly unlikely, but the potential for discovery was too great. 

Rebecca Jameson and Todd Werth, American volcanologists from McMurdo Station, watched as a tiny, vehicle crossed the McMurdo Sound roughly fifty meters from their field camp at the base of Mt. Erebus, the most southerly active volcano on Earth.

“What the hell is that?” Rebecca asked. She pointed a gloved hand directly at the contraption that resembled little more than an expensive remote-controlled car.

“I have no idea,” Todd replied, “and I don’t see anyone else around.” He casually approached the rover and carefully lifted the craft with both hands. The six wheels underneath whizzed and whirled once losing contact with the ice.

“Well?” 

“Not one of ours,” Todd observed. “I’ve never seen us use a rover this small.”

“Maybe we should call over to Scott and ask if they lost one?” Rebecca asked, referring to a nearby research station.

“Yeah,” Todd said, “I guess we should. Odd that one would be just wondering around. I’ve heard of penguins doing that but never a rover.”

Rebecca smiled and reached out to touch one of the hurriedly spinning and turning wheels when Todd approached.

“Noisy little thing,” she laughed. “But I think ours are just as temperamental.”

“Let’s go,” Todd chuckled in reply. “I’m sure whoever this belongs to will want it back.”

ExploringFrozenWorld-SCULLY-ArtABergloff.jpg

Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

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Joshua Scully (@jojascully) is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. His writes fiction and loves a good anachronism. 

 

“Comeback”: An Introduction to Our April 2018 Performance

After a year hiatus, The Evening Theatre has reopened with a tremendous lineup. The digital dust is gone. The proverbial cobwebs are no more. The door is again open – watch your step. 

The intention of our “comeback” is to pick up right where we left off last year, bringing you tales of the wild, weird, and wonderful. Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff) generously provided the artwork for this performance. We are incredibly grateful for her time and talent. 

The Evening Theatre is proud to present a lineup for our “comeback” that includes both new and familiar authors. Emma Power (@epower05) opens the performance with a piece of medicinal poetry. Joshua Scully (@jojascully) and Kyle Bolan (@KyleBolan) bring bizarre tales of the strange and unexpected. S.S. Sanderson (@SSSanderson2) revisits a familiar video game motif, and Damon Garn (@dmgwrites) introduces readers to the first entry of a series that intricately blends humor and fantasy elements. LiAnnah Jameson (@annah_li) poetically confronts internal demons to conclude the lineup.

The performance lineup for April 2018:

Opening Act – “The Caring Professional” by Emma Power

First Act“Exploring a Frozen World” by Joshua Scully

The Jester – “The Keycard Is Always in the Morgue” by Shaw S. Sanderson

Second Act“Tzima N’arki (First Time)” by Kyle Bolan

Headliner – “The Misplaced Tower” by Damon Garn

The Encore “The Monster in the Mirror” by LiAnnah Jameson

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Artwork created by Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff)

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Amanda Bergloff (@AmandaBergloff) is a surrealist artist whose work has been published in the e-zines, New Myths, The Horror Zine, 200CCs, Firefly Magazine, Enchanted Conversation, and Shotgun! Strange Stories.