Every week, Chuck Wendig (a.k.a. “The Bearded Blitzkrieg,” a.k.a. “Wendiggedon”) issues a challenge to the universe: write a piece of flash fiction according to his specifications, share it on his blog, then browse the other submissions and see how different writers responded to the same prompt. This week’s challenge is called An Uncharted Apocalypse – write about the end of the world happening in some way that’s different from the usual cliches (nuclear winter, zombie outbreak, etc.). 1,000-word limit.
I’d never done it before, but this week’s challenge sounded interesting, and I had a little free time, so here we go. And it occurs to me, for all the time I spend blathering about how to write fiction, I’ve never actually posted any of my own fiction before. So, enjoy. It was a fun prompt, and I had fun writing it. Hope it’s fun to read, too.
Without further ado, the story:
Scissors With Running
Dr. Wermann held up a Florence flask half-full of some mysterious purple liquid, swishing it ominously. “Behold!”
Dr. Hall raised an eyebrow, which made him look like a bearded Mr. Spock. “I’m beholding. What is it?”
“I call it: SAAMFAS.”
“Well, I’m glad you explained.”
Dr. Wermann giggled. He looked like a beardless Dr. Hall. “Self-Awareness And Motor Function Actualization Serum.”
“I’m not convinced you know what all those words mean.”
“Mock if you must, Dr. Hall, but any substance my serum touches will become both conscious and capable of motion. SAAMFAS is a bring-it-to-life potion, a Frankenstein froth, a miracle mash for transmuting any useless lump of dead matter into a sentient, ambulatory creature!”
“Poppycock,” said Dr. Hall.
“It works,” said Dr. Wermann.
“It works,” said the Florence flask.
Dr. Hall blinked. “I heard you the first ti – “
The Florence flask slipped out of Wermann’s hand and fell straight to the table’s oak surface (which fortunately was not very far) and hopped straightaway – clink, clink, clink – toward the cluster of fellow Florence flasks at the far end. “Viva the Florence flask nation!” it cried. “Viva Florentium!”
“Yes,” muttered Wermann. “Any matter the serum touches. I suppose that would include its container.”
“You didn’t test it?”
“Thought experiments only. Like Einstein.”
“Um,” said Hall.
The energetic Florence flask busily splashed its own contents over its lifeless brethren, and soon it faced a veritable convocation of compatriots. “Viva Florentium!” it cried.
“Viva Florentium!” echoed the assembly.
“Death to the Erlenmeyer flasks!”
“Death! Death to the Erlenmeyer flasks!”
As Wermann and Hall lifted their eyebrows to uncharted altitudes, the horde of glassware galloped to the other end of the table and shoved the unsuspecting, unanimated Erlenmeyers straight off the edge. Crash! Crash! The Florences cheered in victory.
“Now to the supply closet, to grant the spark of life to our comatose brethren!” crowed Florence Prime.
“Yes! The supply closet!” howled the glassy mob.
“I can take you there,” said the table, which had apparently caught a few drops of SAMFAAS itself. “Only promise you’ll save a little serum for my furniture friends.”
“I can help you make more!” squeaked the scrap of paper on which Wermann had written the SAMFAAS formula – another recipient of the serum’s widespread accidental benevolence.
“ONWARD TO DOMINATION!” cried all at once, and the table trotted out.
The two scientists remained in the empty room with the Erlenmeyer shards, some of which had begun to quiver.
“Well,” said Wermann, “that wasn’t ideal, I suppose.”
In a matter of minutes, each and every object in the Planck Laboratory had got its own individual spark of je ne sais quoi. Moreover, the colossal container congregation had memorized the SAAMFAS formula; and so they synthesized additional serum even as they initiated an exodus from the compound, spreading the garrulous gospel to the wider metropolitan area. Wermann and Hall likewise exited the edifice, but found themselves largely unable to cope with the cresting crisis. Within hours, a sizable chunk of the city of Chicago found itself suddenly self-aware, and the Florence flasks worked hard to make more SAAMFAS.
“Death to the Erlenmeyers!” the cried again; but a few of the conical containers had got hold of the serum themselves, and the war began in earnest.
Their rivalry went viral, as it were, and an ever-expanding radius of cognizant objects set about assaulting their neighbors. In dozens of book stores, volumes of Nabokov made valiant stands against invading Stephenie Meyer tomes. In hundreds of houses, plush recliners waged war against the ottoman empire. In outlying caves, stalactites and stalagmites entered moist combat in the dark. Nikes stomped Adidases even as thousands of deciduous trees clashed with their coniferous counterparts.
“Really we ought to have stopped the initial flask,” opined Wermann.
Hall regarded Wermann with what can only be described as exasperation.
The predicament became a pandemic. First Illinois, then the Midwestern United States, and finally all of North America fell under the terror of talking, traveling thingamajigs. In St. Louis, a conspicuous arch declared itself arch-nemesis of Hoover Dam, and went west in conquest. A panoply of pesos in Mexico went after the dominant dollar, one courageous coin at a time. Countless feckless human beings fell in the crossfire, downed by Sacagaweas and Mexican money, trampled by moving monoliths, felled by fiery flasks. The President attempted to issue a statement and received for his trouble a merciless microphone mauling. The serum spread.
Forty-three days after Zero Hour, Everest polled the Himalayas and found unanimous support for teaching those sons of bitches the Alps a lesson they might not soon forget. They leaped free of their geological groundings and began an unforgettable trans-Asian migration. From a human perspective, the mountainous melee was not – how you say – win-win.
Meanwhile Hall and Wermann survived in a bunker which had serendipitously escaped sentience.
“I feel this is largely your fault,” suggested Hall.
“Observe,” ordered Wermann. “As ever more of the world becomes saturated with SAAMFAS, gradually the planet itself will become self-aware.”
“Oh good,” said Hall.
Cautiously it took stock of its situation. It was a spherical rock about forty thousand kilometers around; so far so good. Lots of tiny little things cavorted all over its surface, shouting and shuffling and generally causing a nuisance. Less good, but still relatively minor: a tiny irritating layer between the mellow mantle and the amiable atmosphere. All around lay the vacant void, which even SAAMFAS could not animate.
Earth widened its gaze.
Earth reached a conclusion.
“If that punk-ass moon thinks it is going to tide up my ocean for another 4.5 billion years,” said Earth, “I will lay down Newton’s Second Law of Motion up in this piece.”
Michael Bay died smiling.