I'm having fun with this less than 500 words thing. Two weeks ago I posted a Western, this week it's Science Fiction. Stick around, there might even be a mystery.
When Pigs Fly and Monkeys Talk
©Manuel Ramos, 2011
Black lightening twisted across the red sky. “Winter,” Cantú mumbled. She thumped the control panel and Sanitex snapped over the window.
She tightened her tunic as though the silver crystals had already started to fall. The rigo skin deflected moisture but it was useless for warmth.
“What do I expect from a flying pig?”
She trudged around the accumulated junk spread throughout the Shak3. Pumps and pipe sections blocked the rear exit. Somewhere in the clutter a sand monkey huddled among discarded circuit boards. The smelly thing treasured scrap as food. Cantú appreciated that it had quit screeching and jabbering at her.
The portable shelter trembled. Cantú twitched when she heard the high-pitched whine.
She tapped Latif’s numbers on her digi-tel. Her partner’s hairy face glowed from the small screen.
“What the hell are you doin’ out there? Can’t you feel that wind?”
Latif’s voice cracked through Cantú’s headphones. “I’m trying to get back, but in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a little tough moving around this goddamned planet. The Oscar is stuck in some kind of mush and I don’t really want to walk in the open. I’m waiting out the wind in a crag hole. I’m not that far away.”
“What do you mean, waiting out? This could go on for weeks. What about the wind snakes? You want to hassle with those?”
The screen blinked, then faded to gray. Either Latif had hung up or the wind had cut off access, again.
What a nightmare assignment. Acrid, metallic atmosphere that caused coughing fits; weird, hungry creatures; and a climate fit only for rocks and scrub weeds. But there was oil – at least something that might be used as oil. The lab boys called it Synth, short for synthetic she figured, but it floated naturally on the puddles of smoking liquid that dotted the otherwise barren landscape. She and Latif had been told to never touch the stuff – the standard bureaucratic caution. No one knew what Synth was, but that didn’t matter to the Company. The potential payoff canceled any concern about the actual risks. If the wages weren’t so good, she would have quit a long time ago.
Latif’s scream wrenched her eyes from the digi-tel. Her co-worker stumbled into the Shak3. Synth clung to Latif like a mercurial cocoon.
“I fell ... I can’t breathe.” Latif clawed at his own chest.
Cantú jumped back as Latif burst into flames. The burning man collapsed at Cantú’s feet. A trickle of blue flowed from the crackling corpse. The thin stream moved towards Cantú. She turned to run but a slimy chord grabbed her ankle and she could not move. The fluid latched onto her legs and crawled up to her mouth. Her teeth were forced open and oil filled her throat.
A small, furry face peered from under a pile of useless computers. It watched Cantú burn.
“I tried to warn them,” the ambassador later reported. “It’s not my fault.”