The Boulder of Eden

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Below is my submission for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2018 round 2.

The brief for my heat in the first round was:

Genre: Science Fiction

Location: A singles resort

Object: A boulder

Length: 1,000 words

Time limit: 48 hours.

My submission, The Boulder of Eden, is below.

Synopsis: The strange, intoxicating, psychic atmosphere on the planet Eden makes it the perfect singles resort. But if there’s nothing sinister here, what happened to the last civilisation of Eden?

*****

Kristine tried to slide out of bed without waking Cesc. “Where are you going?” he asked in his Terran accent. His voice pulled on her childhood memories of Earth. Memories from before Eden Singles Resort Ltd had accidentally stumbled upon the greatest archaeological find in human history. Before her parents had taken her to Eden for the ‘Big Dig’. Before the planet Eden had been split into the archeology half and the resort half.

“I have to do the nightly checks,” said Kristine pulling away.

“It’ll be fine,” the sleepy words dripped out of his mouth. “It’s my last night, Kristine!”  

“I’ll be back in half an hour.”

“Half an hour,” he mocked, “I may as well board the ship and leave now.”  

“We will have all morning.”

“I hope you treat me better than this when you come back to earth?” he poked.  

“Don’t play, Cesc,” she still didn’t believe he was going to wait for her.

“Am I just another horny resort guest to you?” he joked.

“Don’t!”

Cesc smiled, satisfied he had struck a nerve, and rolled over into his pillows. Kristine grabbed her backpack, left Cesc’s hotel room and headed down the trail that led to The Boulder.

It was 5am and the deep, red light of Proxima Centauri was starting to creep over the horizon. The red dwarf gave the planet a red light district hue. Everything glowed sinfully.

She weaved through the dark green leaves overhanging the trail and thought about what a strange week it had been. She had never fraternised with a guest before. Not that it was against company policy. Flirting with guests was encouraged. But Kristine had never been interested. She had left the ‘Big Dig’ and joined Eden Singles Resort Ltd for one reason. And after three years, tonight she would finally see out the mission.

She considered the serendipity that Cesc, her childhood friend, had turned up this week of all weeks. They’d recognised each other immediately. The conversation had flowed. One thing had led to another. It felt like another sign from Planet, and a possible exit. She didn’t know how Planet had brought Cesc here, but in Planet she trusted.

Terran eyes were ill adapted to the low frequency light and strange atmosphere of Eden. The rose-tinted glasses effect contributed to the hook-up culture on Eden. But Planet whispered to Kristine. Not with words, with pressures and feelings in her psyche. Planet tried to speak to every human on Eden. Visitors felt it as a seductive, woozy, feeling in their mind, like a glass of sparkling wine on an empty stomach, loosening their inhibitions. Only the archaeologists, who had lived here for a decade, and had honed their third ear, could interpret the whispers of Planet.

The forest thickened around the path and every time a giant leaf touched her, she felt Planet kiss her psyche. As she approached the last corner before The Boulder, Planet whispered. She felt figures moving around The Boulder. Someone was there. She stepped off the track and slid through the low trees with Planet’s gentle guidance.

At the edge of the treeline she could look down on The Boulder, a huge rock, around nine feet wide and tall. A waterfall crashed onto The Boulder, splitting the water before it flowed into the basin.

It was the central attraction to the resort. Swimming in the basin was intoxicating, and The Boulder was given credit. It never seemed to weather. Everyone suspected it had been created by the civilisation whose archeological remains they had found. The resort hadn’t dared to investigate it, for fear of breaking the spell, despite the constant, desperate requests from the archaeologists to have access to it.

Two men and a woman were frolicking in the basin. The men were vying for her attention, trying and failing to climb The Boulder’s smooth sides.

“Can you get rid of them?” Kristine said into the trees. She waited a minute then the three bathers suddenly started holding their heads as migraines gripped them. After a few minutes they had all retrieved their clothes and left.

Kristine approached the basin cautiously, even though Planet was reassuring her. The presence of The Boulder was almost overwhelming on her sensitive psyche. Instinctively, she averted her eyes. After composing herself, she removed a flask from her bag, input a code into a digital padlock, and unsealed the airtight top. Her phone vibrated and rattled her bag but she ignored it. She carefully poured out the contents into the basin. A microbial culture of synthetic super-gonorrhoea, trapped in a water soluble slime. It plopped into the basin and melted into the water.

It would live for two weeks, infecting hundreds of visitors. By the time the STI scandal hit the media, what was left of the culture in the basin would be dead. But the infection would have spread light-years, destroying Eden’s reputation. When profits dropped, the archaeologists could surely come to some arrangement with Eden Singles Resort Ltd to access The Boulder.

Planet weighed on Kristine’s psyche suddenly. Someone was approaching. She darted back into the trees.

A figure approached the basin, alone. Not unusual, they’d probably forgotten where their hotel room was and were waiting for reception to open. Kristine could only make out their silhouette in the muddy light, but they stripped and lowered themselves into the water with one hand while tapping out a text message with the other.  

Our first victim, thought Kristine. Her bag buzzed again. She opened her phone and saw two messages from Cesc. “I can’t get back to sleep. Let’s watch the sunrise at The Boulder.” Then, “I’m here, where are you?”

Kristine looked at the basin. A chill locked her psyche. She wanted to scream to him, to run down to the basin and pull him out. But Planet had hold of her, flooding her mind with  condolences and thankfulness. But holding her – dead still, except for the tears pouring down her cheeks.

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