Fifteen Minute Ficlets (#15MF) is a weekly Sunday writing challenge hosted here on The Literary Phoenix. Based on a single word, write a short story in fifteen minutes. The word count is irrelevant. Just write your heart out for 15 minutes and be inspired by the word. You never know what you’ll end up with!
This week’s word: “Hive”
1. a beehive.
2. a place where people are busily occupied.
Opal stopped in her tracks, one arm lifted to shade her eyes, trying to see what lay ahead. The bright sunlight seared her vision, but she was able to make out Erik’s body just ahead. He squatted on the ground, clearly looking at something. Opal was too far to make out the item of interest, so she lightly jogged beside him and squatted too.
It was a hole in the ground, cut right from the harsh desert land as though a machine carved it. A tinny humming noise came from within.
“I expected it to be larger,” she confessed. In diameter, the hole was no wider than the length of her forearm.
Erik ran his finger along the edge. Something glistened on his fingertip when he pulled it away, a sap-like substance in deep violet. “This is definitely it,” he murmured. He wiped the slime on his slacks and stood up.
Opal hesitated. It seemed too easy. They’d only been hunting the creatures for a day and a half, and this hole was barely fifty miles outside of Dix. Surely the town patrols came out this far and would have noticed the anomaly? Opal knew from experience that the hunting parties were known to travel three or four hundred miles each day to reach the very perimeter of the prime hunting zones. Beads of sweat rolled down the back of her neck and she stood up, wiping her forehead with her arm.
“There must be others,” she decided. “Other holes, other entrances.”
“Yes,” Erik cut her off, “but this is the one we’ve found, and we have to smoke them out.”
She frowned. Since the plague, the population of Dix had dwindled, but the few who remained did not stand a chance against the poisonous scorpions. If they smoked out the whole hive, there could be thousands of the beasts, panicked and starving, that would race to the nearest settlement. It could mean many more lives lost. Opal was finished with the bruised and battered bodies of those attacked by desperate animals. She hoped for a time of peace, but the only places that seemed to be simple and peaceful these days were the old EDEN modules.
Erik was right, and she didn’t want to admit it. Left unchecked, the creatures would continue to rampage and their bone armor and sharp stingers would have no problem penetrating the thin glass shields around the modules. They were a threat to the survival of civilization, and needed to be neutralized.
“Fine,” she acquiesced. “I’ll speak with Tommy when we get back. He’s not going to like it.”
Erik shrugged. “He’d like it better than a stinger up his arse; he won’t complain too much if we don’t bother him.” He looked ahead to the cracked desert land, withering brown skeletons where trees used to be, the wavering haze along the horizon. “We better get moving, while we have the light of day.”
Opal nodded. The hot days out here were brutal, but the frozen nights were worse. She paused a moment to stretch her weary muscles, then the two started back the way they came.
Opal and Erik star in one of my WIPs and past-NaNo-Novel, THE EDEN EXPERIMENT. After being accused of attempted murder, Opal has a choice: go to the gallows or volunteer herself in a survival experiment conducted by the city’s scientific corps to prepare in the case of a second apocalypse. This story takes place years after the end of the book.
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