This story I’ve written is the winner of the November Science Fiction Microstory Contest. It had to deal with a change of seasons, mention gemstones and ancestors and be no longer than 750 words. It’s surprisingly difficult to write such a short story, but I had a lot of fun. Here it goes:
Aoma heard a short cry of the kamali bird, announcing the coming morning. Dew was shining on the fluorescent grass and flowers of the glade where she’d spent the night. The last moon was setting somewhere behind the trees, coloring the world in soft violet hues. The first day of summer was about to begin. It was this last hour of the violet moon that was considered magical by her people. The time when spring handed the reins over to summer that would drive them underground for at least three months.
It was a legend passed down through generations that gave them brittle hope. There was equipment built by an ancient civilization that allowed their ancestors to clear the air of toxic clouds, and, even more miraculously, release the heat created by the anger of Makkabor — their star — cooling the climate and making it possible to live on the ground even during summer. As the legend had it, the system used to be managed by an intelligent machine that was forcibly shut down during the Great Revolution. Well-guarded against those seeking to destroy it, the way to the machine could only be found once a year, during the last hour of the violet moon, when the symbols revealing its hidden location became visible. The villagers were methodically searching the forest each year. This time, Aoma was sent to the area from which scouts before her didn’t return.
She started from a point to the North of the glade. Her strategy was to spiral out, checking for markings. She used buo powder that she’d traded her favorite knife for to sharpen her concentration. It allowed complete focus on one thing only and would last her about two hours. She had no sense of passing time as she was circling around the glade, searching.
Suddenly, Aoma noticed something barely visible glowing on a tree trunk. A sign! As Aoma touched it slightly, it turned into an arrow, the glow intensifying. Her heartbeat accelerated. Following the direction the arrow suggested, Aoma couldn’t contain a cry of awe. Glowing vertical lines on the trees marked a path running into an unfamiliar part of the forest. Her heart hammering in her chest, Aoma hurried along the path, aware that the time of the violet moon was coming to an end. She was already feeling the rising heat in the air.
Focused on the glowing lights ahead, Aoma barely noticed two figures that suddenly blocked her path. Because of buo, she could only perceive them as a mild irritation on the outskirts of her consciousness, that interfered with her reaching her goal.
“Stop right there,” one of them said.
“I can’t…” she mumbled and trailed off as something flashed in the figure’s hand. Aoma realized she was in danger, yet, she couldn’t switch her focus. She was struggling with her own awareness that rejected anything but the path that ended several meters behind the figures with a glowing circle in the ground. A door! And just as the legend said, the three rare gemstones formed a circle of their own in the middle of the door: the lime akis, the turquoise vossip and the pink lisim. Aoma launched herself there and was stopped by something cold piercing her stomach. Sharp pain broke the spell of the buo, and Aoma gasped, really noticing the figures for the first time. They were dressed in lose green robes tied around their waists, a man and a woman, both of them bold.
“No one will pass,” one of the figures said.
“Why?” Aoma managed, tasting blood in her mouth. This could save her people!
“We’ve been guarding the Tomb after the Revolution that defeated the Thinking Machine for generations. We shall not…”
Multiple arrows pierced both figures, interrupting the speech.
“Aoma!” sweet voice and warm hands on her face. Her friend Lissinka was crouching near. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you out! The Chief told us to follow you discretely, since this sector was suspicious. We knew if there was something here, you’d find it!”
Lissinka kept talking, but Aoma started drifting away. There were sounds of battle, splatters of something warm on her face, distant screams and white fog all around. She didn’t know her people were fighting the guardians fiercely protecting the Tomb. She didn’t know one of the villagers managed to sneak in unnoticed, powering up the ancient mechanisms. She didn’t know the machine that was shut down as it threatened human existence was on again.