126. The Aspiration Project on Colony IV


Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Gemma poked her thumbs through the holes in her sleeve cuffs, then crossed her arms over her chest. Mum said she could sulk and regret it, or make the most of the few days they had left together. If she wanted to be taken seriously and be treated like an adult, then now was the time to start, and to try to appreciate that difficult decisions weren’t taken lightly. Gemma couldn’t understand why Laura had picked that stupid, greasy, lanky boy over her own sister. It wasn’t fair. Dad was dead. Laura was leaving. Every penny they had went on Mum’s medicine, and it wouldn’t be long before Gemma was on her own. At least she’d get to keep most of Laura’s clothes, including the jumper she had on. She looked at the fabric composition label. 60% Recycled Polypropylene. 35% Recycled Acrylic. 4% Recycled Viscose.1% Reclaimed Wool. Almost everything she had ever owned was second hand, vintage, hand-me-down, used, pre-loved. Clothes, toys, books. Colony IV was brand new. Laura would get her own apartment, and everything in it would be straight from the factory. She imagined how Laura would peel off the plastic wrapping from the front door and it would make a sucking sound as it opened. Shiny, clean and white. New intakes always moved into a hermetically sealed zone for the first two years, so they could acclimatise and be monitored for disease. All those teenagers. Taking classes together. Being trained for something important. Good food and free medical treatment. 


Early Colonisers had worked hard to set up The Aspiration Project, and reliable fresh air was a real thing now. There were enough trees growing to make it a renewable resource. She’d heard that people could run outside – on purpose – and were still able to breathe! It sounded amazing. No wonder she felt so jealous. Mum said that she would get her chance soon to apply and to not give up, and that everyone has to make the best life they can with what they’re given.


Laura’s Fare Well Event was in nine days time, and then she would be allowed only five minutes worth of video calls during the rest of her life. Due to the physics of space travel, it would take Laura six months to reach Colony IV, by which time, Gemma would have aged eighteen years. She doubted that Laura would care enough to ever call her again, and that she would sell her video slots to other people who were actually going to miss their families. But there was always the small chance that some time in the future, Laura would contact her. Gemma might even recognise her on one of those Colony documentary shows.


What neither of them knew, or the majority of people on that dying planet would ever know, was that the voyage Laura and her boyfriend were about to take, was not to The Aspiration Project on Colony IV, but to a human recycling plant. Those who actually got to go to one of the Colonies were not the most fertile, physically strong or genetically healthy specimens like the adverts showed. Prime humans at the start of their adulthood were not living their best lives on Colony IV or any other Colony for that matter. Colony IV was designed as a hospice paradise for in-bred, sickly offspring of legacy investors and their extended families. All of the spaces were always going to be permanently reserved for those who could afford it. But to avoid any hint of a rebellion or civil unrest, the lottery for tickets had to be seen to be a fair system for everyone. People cannot be allowed to give up hope.

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

One of the benefits of lockdown is that I have been able to attend creative writing classes on Zoom and continue to work full-time from home. If I was still commuting, I would not have had the time to travel to different locations for classes.

The above short fiction was written to a Science Fiction brief in an ‘Investigating Genre’ class run by InspireCulture.org.uk


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As part of my professional development short story writers group A Brief Pause I am doing a “tight three minute’ reading on Tuesday 27th April 2021 at just after 19:00 BST, as part of their new short story reading series. This monthly space is for writers, readers and publishers to listen to and discuss short stories.

Click here for a link to the Eventbrite ticketing page.

UPDATE- Me doing my reading!

One Good Turn

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Just a quick one. (A new story is on its way later this week soon) But first…

Remember last year when I said that I’d written a story called ‘Say When’ and it was included in a charity anthology called ‘No Good Deed’? Well, ‘No Good Deed’ is on the shortlist for best anthology in the Saboteur Awards 2020!

Please could I trouble you to spare a few moments and do me a massive favour and vote for ‘No Good Deed’ in the ‘best anthology’ section? If you haven’t already read it, then you’re in for a real treat. The kindle version is a bargain at £2.99, and the paperback is £8.99.

Click here to vote!

Thank you so much.

Buy NO GOOD DEED here

NGD-Cover

Sales from this book go to the charity Indigo Volunteers

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Photo by Dhaya Eddine Bentaleb on Unsplash

113. Small Blue Thing

blue is the colour

A series of four flash fictions on the same theme.

one

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Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Alex remembered when she used to get a big bag of those sweets when she went to the cinema. No, it wasn’t a bag, it was more like a big paper coffee cup, with a plastic lid. They were banned at school because her friend would die if she ate just one, or even if she kissed someone who had.

The last time she’d had any was for her birthday the year before last. She’d gazed at the unopened crumpled, yellow packet with the same adoraration as she did her newborn. After a week, she’d added one sweet to her rations every day. Twenty three peanut chocolates. Six red, four orange, four brown, four green, five blue. The packet was faded and squashed, with an eat-by date of six years ago. Some of the peanuts tasted bitter and the chocolate was greasy with a white bloom on it. 

That was her first proper raid. She’d been desperate for so long, but teenage girls were too valuable to lose. It felt odd that after she’d birthed, she was allowed to go on a run, but when the day actually came, she didn’t want to leave him. Two day’s travel there, two back. Seeing places with her own eyes that she’d only ever heard of. The journey home was when you had to watch out for bandits. Why take all the risk when you could just tax someone else?

two

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Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

“Mummy? Mummy? Where are you? I’ve found the cake I want.”

“Just a second, darling.” 

Alex’s mum entered the room, drying her hands on a teatowel. “Show me?”

As soon as she saw the photograph, an almost imperceptible flicker of disgust wrinkled across her lips.

This is the one you like best?” She asked, holding the phone out to her daughter.

The screen showed a photograph of two circular cakes in the shape of a number eight, with smooth, creamy white icing and the number holes filled with bright blue sweets. 

“Yes, I’ve looked at hundreds and that’s my favourite one. Please Mummy, can I have it?”

“Let me send it to myself and I’ll have a proper look later.”

Alex’s mum already knew that this wasn’t the cake her daughter was going to get for her birthday. It was far too ordinary. After all, a person was only as good as their last event. She couldn’t afford to slip down the rankings. Not now. Her daughter would have lots more birthdays to have average cakes. This party had to be picture perfect to maintain her benchmark of 400 likes.

three

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Photo by seabass creatives on Unsplash

“Alex, this is important. You have to pick out all of the blue ones. Every single one. I’ll have to check it before their tour manager sees it”

“Why? Is it because they are a red pill kind of band?”

“No. Well, that’s one rumour. There’s a clause in the contract that if there are any blue sweets in the bowl, the band can cancel at no cost to them. It’s to see whether the promoter has read the terms and conditions properly. They were sick of not being taken seriously and getting ripped off because they were women. Now they get called divas, but at least they’re getting paid. What can you do, eh?”

four

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

“You’re not going to choke. I promise. But you have to take your pills. Look, why don’t you practice with these? They’re about the same size. Watch me.”

Alex swallowed a small sweet then said, “Easy. You eat bigger pieces of food than these every day. You can do this.”

The woman’s eyesight wasn’t what it was. She would never have noticed that her nurse had swapped the sweets for her sleeping tablets. They both had the same sugary, crispy shell. They practiced with four now, then a few minutes later, Alex came back into the room and did the same speech again. The woman had either forgotten, or was easily convinced that she was confused because of her illness. About ten minutes later, Alex’s watch beeped. “Tablet time!” she said cheerfully. It was nearly bedtime so the woman was due two sleeping tablets.

“That should do it,” thought Alex.

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Photo by Mark jackson on Unsplash