This story is a FridayFlashFiction for terribleminds.com challenge. Use three of five words; fountain, tax, cockroach, bottle, box. Oh, and include the idea of a vampire somewhere. My word count 994. shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-1y
Paradise II Louise Sorensen October 18, 2011
“Oh my god, Sam… come and see…” Rick Brown ran into the cabin of his business partner Sam Hansen and shook him awake.
“What the hell… I‘m trying to sleep here,” Sam muttered.
“It‘s gone. Nothing’s left,” Rick said, tears streaming down his cheeks. He pulled Sam out of bed and over to a viewer. Yesterday their ship, The Schrodinger, had been standing in the middle of a bustling spaceport; today it overlooked an empty plain.
Sam stared at him, the colour draining out of his face. Then he struggled into a pair of pants and ran to the control room.
The viewport showed them miles and miles of barren land.
“What in hell is going on? Did you take us off world while I was sleeping?”
“No, Sam, no. We’re still on Paradise. Everything… mountains, rivers, oceans, people, it’s all gone!” He ran his fingers through his hair. “All gone.”
Sam looked at him, then sat down in the pilot seat. “Give me a minute, I’ve got to think. Bring me the camera.”
Rick brought Sam the Full Scan Camera, then went to the galley and brewed some tea to settle his nerves.
“It doesn‘t make sense,” Sam said, turning the simple box over in his hands. Rick handed him a cup and he took a sip of the steaming brew. “I think we better go back and check out the last place we scanned. See if it’s still there.”
Rick tried to remain calm as he programmed The Schrodinger with the flight co-ordinates. They lifted off, entered fold space and within minutes reached their destination.
“Where are the mountains? There used to be mountains and snowcaps and … mountain goats,” Rick said, checking his instruments and looking down at the area they had scanned a few days earlier.
“Take us to the planet before this,” Sam said.
Rick glanced over at Sam, who was moving schematics of the Full Scan Camera around on his computer screen and manipulating a page of equations.
At the next scan site, Rick said, “The Temple on the Cliff is gone. So’s the whole cliff and half the town.”
Sam turned to him. “The FS didn’t just scan those places, Rick. It ate them up. Bloody camera’s a vampire.”
Rick looked at him in horror.
“Don’t worry. I’ll fix it.”
After he had been working two months on the camera to find a way to put the missing places back, The Schrodinger’s health monitor buzzed Sam.
HEALTH REPORT — SAM HANSEN– AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE– TREATMENT UNKNOWN– PROGNOSIS– TERMINAL showed up on the screen. Sam waved the information away, and decided to keep it to himself.
Three months later they were ready to test again.
“That’s almost got it,” Rick said, watching the rocky cliffs fade. “At least this time they lasted longer.”
“Longer ain’t good enough…they’ve got to last forever,” Sam said glumly.
“Sam,” said Rick, “You’re looking awful thin these days. Is anything wrong?”
“Nah. It’s nothing. Just been working too hard.”
Five weeks later they tried again. Rick pointed the camera and pulled the trigger. Needle-thin mountains formed on the flat plain. They watched and waited from The Schrodinger.
“One day…still here,” Rick said. Sam nodded and went back to his screen.
“Two days…still here.” White herbivores, tiny in the distance, scaled the rock.
“A month and still here!” Sam said. “I think we’ve got it. The only thing is, you have to reverse the scans in the order they were taken.”
“Why?” Rick asked.
“The calculations were very tricky. Even for me,” Sam said. “I couldn’t risk changing the order.”
“But that means we have to restore Paradise last.” Rick remembered the mountains, wildlife, laughing fountains and thousands of people that they had erased.
“I know. I don’t think I’ll be around by then, Rick. My health is shot.”
Rick looked at his friend with concern and Sam held up his hand.
“I’ve spent my last cent figuring out how to reverse the scan. You have to make sure you live long enough to do the final reversal and bring Paradise back.”
“I’ll take youth treatments,” replied Rick. “Set the camera up and show me what to do.”
When Rick came back from the treatments a month later, he found a note;
I’m going to the mountain. Never thought it would come to this. Be sure to put everything back. You’ve been a good friend and I appreciate it. Don’t look for me.
It took Rick ten years to restore the places he and Sam had stolen with the Vampire Camera. Despite the youth treatments, operating it had taxed his health.
On his last stop, he stepped off the supply ship onto Paradise and trudged across the airless plain. His ancient space suit was tinted the colour of dried blood from the dust of a hundred planets.
He found the dozen prospectors who still grubbed a living there at the derelict mining ship that served as a saloon.
“Listen up boys,” he told them, in an old cracked voice. “You ever wonder why they called this planet Paradise?”
His eyes watered with the memory of the mountains, water, birds that blocked out the sun in their flight, but especially the friendly welcoming people. The fear on the prospectors’ faces told him they already knew the answer to his question. Warily, the bar tender pushed a shot of whiskey in front of him.
“Never mind. You all have a paid flight out on that supply ship. It leaves in two hours. Collect your gear and get out.” There was a murmur of disapproval from the crowd.
“Anybody still here tomorrow is going to be extremely uncomfortable,” he said, and pulled out the camera. It’s lens, huge and alien, stared at them with inhuman hunger.
Alone finally, he set the camera on automatic, knowing he probably wouldn’t survive the reversal process. He lived long enough to see the mountains of Paradise, rising.