Fifteen Minute Fiction Challenge (Tales in the Ashes) – Writing Challenge

By D. C. Ward, Chris Wright and Andy Wright

Sentient Ink Logo-01For all those new to the game, the three of us writers sit in a room with laptops on knees. We then find a website that generates a random genre and title, and off we go with fifteen minutes on the clock. This includes time to both plan and write, so not an easy task! So see how we got on, vote for your favourite, and even have a go yourself (remember to tell us how it went).

Random Genre: Sci-fi

Random Title: Tales in the Ashes

*

Tales in the Ashes by D. C. Ward

Death was never the end these days, and that sickened him. Two of his great grandfathers had been in the church before the Seculars’ purge of Ravenhall. That was why he was here, a hollow man, a faceless grunt. The War of Truth still raged against the dying breed of the Divine Union. The last battle had spilled blood across one of the last forests of Gyesh. Everywhere else for thousands of miles was now cursed with shining monochrome cities under hazy grey skies, pathetically adorned with genetically farmed trees, withered and strangled in the toxic streets.

He trudged on. The tablet on the back of his black glove beeped three times. Another story to be told beneath his palm. A man’s memories, his life and his death, every fibre of his being and every truth and lie he knew was being uploaded to the know-it-alls back at the Secular’s Capital. These days, even in death, your secrets lived on.

It wouldn’t be long now. He looked across the field of burning bodies, piles upon piles of ashes. One of them would know where the last of Union was hiding, the last of the Priests.

*

Tales in the Ashes by Chris Wright

Beads of sweat bundled and curled down the nape of his neck, burrowing downwards until they were lost in his suit. He glanced up at the sky and sighed into his breather. The wonder of it. The magisterial splendour. The shrivelling heat of the of the day was at last beginning to wane, fading gently after long weeks aglow as the suns began to lower to the horizon. The red giant still shone, half buried in the soil, but the orbiting white had vanished at last and allowed him to emerge from his glacial capsule.

He could stare for hours, but he knew that time was short. Long weeks had passed in burning heat, but the window was already closing on navigable weather. The sweat still formed and dripped down his skin but, within hours, the ice would start to form. The purple sky would turn to blue and the blood in his veins would freeze and harden. Not even his thermosuit could stand up to the Kronian night.

So he turned his eyes from the wandering stars, from the kingly purple of the alien heavens, and hopped on his cruiser to traverse the mountains of the Lonely Continent. He travelled far in little time, throttle gunned and head turned down. The inertia should have killed him but his suit kept him still as he breathed deeply from the oxygen of his breather. It pumped into his lungs like a life-giving elixir and he gulped it down greedily.

He neared it at last; the Great Cave of Noron. His destination; his sole reason for the long weeks in the pod and long months in space. Not a man lived inside, not a ghost or beast. But the tiniest creatures, born of fire, who were said to know the secrets of this galaxy, and who whispered them to those who would listen through their cryptic tales in the ashes.

*

Tales in the Ashes by Andy Wright

He sprinted through the murky forest, trying to ignore the branches and thorns tugging at his skin. They were playing with him. With their technology, they could track him down in seconds and obliterate him almost as quickly. He had seen what they had done to the others. I’m different, he tried to convince himself. He had watched his home burn and he had heard the tales those flames had told.

He almost tripped on a root hidden in the foliage underfoot, but managed to stagger forwards. The ships to either side of him hummed past with impossible speed, encircling him; trapping him for their final game. He smiled darkly to himself. Just a few more yards. What I’d give to see the look on their ugly faces when I’m through.

He had played in this forest as a child and knew the landmarks: the winding gravel path, the huge silvery boulder, the tree with the words ‘John fucked Marcy’ carved into the bark. It was one hell of a small advantage but it was something the others didn’t have. This is my home, he thought to himself, angrily.

He veered sharply to his left, barely missing another tiny craft whizzing by. Just a few more yards.

The ancient stone gate came into view ahead and he smiled again, more honestly this time. Because the invasion hadn’t been quite the surprise those fuckers thought it was. For centuries men and women had looked into the fire and seen the horrors that were to come, and they had been preparing. He had seen it too; the tales in the ashes of his home. An explosion nearby shook the ground, but they were too late. He was only feet from the gate now and they were about to learn what mankind had in store for them.

If you enjoyed the challenge, you’re welcome to give it a go yourself with our genre and title. If you would like to be updated when we post more challenges (as well as fiction we spent considerably longer on, articles on writing, and book reviews) please subscribe via email or WordPress. We also have Twitter (Sentient_Ink) and Pinterest.

Hit this link to get to our ‘Challenges’ page, where you can see every Fifteen Minute Fiction Challenge we have ever done | 15 Minute Fiction Challenges. And here’s some of other fiction work: 1979* and the Coldsuit, two exciting sci-fi short stories by Andy Wright.

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