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Science Fiction Teens & Young Adult

We are the left behind, the ones who didn’t make the cut, the unlucky.

When The Arc was created, they said the positions on board would be determined by ballot. Funny how that random selection process took one hundred percent of the rich and famous, the billionaires, the influencers, the celebrities and politicians. Oh, they took others too, the unnamed and unknown. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, all randomly selected. Families were torn apart by the horrible choice, either stay together and die, or separate for a chance at life. My mother chose life, chose her future over me. I was not selected. I was left behind and she went, boarded the huge craft they called The Arc. The chosen few abandoned the Earth with its dying sun, departed for places unknown in the far reaches of space. They said they’d return for us, the ones they left behind. We knew they lied.

Then came the Light Stalkers, attracted to the light of the dying sun, like moths to an enormous flame.

And we, the left behind, became their prey.

****

“We need supplies,” Rogue says to those of us gathered in the worn out ruins of an ancient subway. The tunnels provide a safe way to move from place to place. The Light Stalkers can’t follow us down here. “We need to send a scout to the surface.” I don’t know what Rogue had been in his other life. I thought of him as a warrior, like the ancient marines of old. Jesper thought he must have been a teacher, because he knows so much random shit and doesn’t need a computab to assist with recall. It doesn’t matter. You don’t ask questions in the dark.

All eyes look at me in the dim light of the glow stone. With Light Stalkers about, you never want to light a place too brightly. The woven basket always sits next to the stone, ready to cover it at a moment’s notice, and plunge our meeting space into darkness.

“I’ll go.”

It was a semblance of choice, a facsimile of democracy. If I didn’t volunteer, I would be volunteered. I am slight and fast, and I hide in the shadows, moving relatively unseen above ground.

“I’ll come too.” At seven, Lillin is technically the youngest of our group.

“You can wait for me at the shadow mouth, Lil. I’m faster above ground on my own.” One day I’ll take Lillin with me, it will be good for him to know how to scout and score. If something happens to me and I don’t return from one of my missions to the surface, Lil will need to know what to do. But he is young yet. He doesn’t remember the days before darkness. He has no idea about the horrors that the Light Stalkers can bring. I want to protect that innocence as long as I can. I know Rogue won’t let him be a kid for much longer. Survival trumps innocence.

****

At the shadow mouth, the entrance to our safe haven, I pause and Lillin hovers at my shoulder.

“Lil, your job is to watch the stones,” I tell him as I carefully shove six glow stones into the dull light. They will absorb the weak rays so we can reuse them to light our darkness. “If you see a stalker, retreat, you hear me?” He nods, eyes wide. “You leave those stones and get yourself back into the shadows. I can replace the stones. I can’t replace you.” It is not strictly true. Replacing the stones is risky. They’re not native to earth, so it requires sneaking into a Light Stalker encampment and taking them. That endeavour is a death wish.

Cautiously, I exit the safety of the shadow mouth and scamper across the flat expanse of exposed ground, until I reach the shallow overhang opposite. The decaying ruins of the abandoned city provide ample cover and I crawl through the dark, confined spaces formed by walls that have toppled to the ground. I scamper from one pile of rubble to another, short, quick dashes into the dangerous light of the dull red sun that hangs like a pulsating, blood-red wound in the sky.

I know what we need. Rogue has planted ancient orange trees nearby. The little schooling I had received in the time before the darkness taught me that the human body needs vitamins to survive, and an important one is VitC. Our bodies need it to fight off disease and infection, so oranges are a staple of our diet. Each year, Rogue and I also plant leafy greens and vine growing beans in scattered places throughout the ruined city. My job is to harvest enough for us to survive for the next few weeks and replant to ensure that there will be food for us in the future. Never take more than you need.

I’ll go get the oranges first. That’s the most dangerous part of the mission as the trees grow in the full sun. Although our dying sun is not hot, it’s relentless. Once there had been day and night, but it’s been thousands of years since anyone experienced the phenomenon. Over the last few millennia, the sun expanded in its dying throws, and its size impacted Earth’s gravitational field. The North Pole had been pulled toward the full sun, leaving the South Pole in eternal darkness. Sometimes, Rogue and I would dream of walking to the other side of the world, the dark side, where the stalkers wouldn’t come. But nothing would grow without sunlight and we’d starve to death there. Not to mention that the other side of the world is forever away.

The orange grove is around the next corner and I approach with increased caution as I crawl between two walls that have toppled over to form a low tunnel full of lichen and scurrying rodents. The soil here is damp and loamy, pungent with rotting vegetation and excrement. Before the Light Stalkers came, we would use it to fuel our fires, and a small amount would burn for a long time. I scoop up handfuls of the mud and fill my pockets. It’s a precaution that Rogue taught me.

At the end of the tunnel, I know I am going to have to run and I prepare myself, check that my satchel is firmly on my shoulder and that my pockets are full. I spend a few moments just watching, searching for any movement, any unusual disturbances. As far as I can tell, it’s safe, but I don’t linger. I dash towards the first tree and huddle for safety beneath its branches. Still safe. I begin to gather the oranges, carefully placing them inside my satchel.

When I get to the fourth tree, I hear it, the sibilant hiss that sparks terror in my soul. Silently, I scale the tree, as my heart pounds against my ribs, and hope that the shadows of the branches will be enough to hide me. The stalker walks upright in the sunlight. Bronze scaled skin reflects the cool red light, and the glow stones embedded in the straps that pass for clothing on this creature, glimmer warmer than the sun’s feeble light. 

The stalker is a bipedal creature with long arms ending in hands that have six multi jointed digits. If one of those hands grabs you, you’re done for. It’ll feed on you, suck the moisture from your entire body, leaving you a dried up husk of a human. They’re unshakable, the best idea is to stay well away from them. The second best idea is to lure them into the shade. They are creatures of sunlight and I’ve seen first hand the intense reaction they have to the shadows.

This Stalker has excellent hearing. It turns its head slightly, and I freeze, holding my breath lest it hear me. I wonder if it can hear the ferocious pounding of my heart? There’s nothing I can do about it. My whole body is shaking with each beat. Dark eyes glint in the sunlight as it peers through the branches and then it chitters, a sound I have never heard before. Usually they hiss. I know that it can see me, its eyes are fixed on my hiding spot and I tense my muscles, ready to leap from the tree and run.

Another hissing sound pierces the silence, and I see a second stalker shuffling this way. It hisses at the first one and both turn their heads toward the branches where I am hiding. Shit, I’m dead. Outrunning one stalker is one thing, avoiding two is impossible, but I refuse to give in. I will go down fighting. I feel the mud in my pocket. It’s not much, but it will have to do, because I’m dead anyway.

The second stalker steps into the shade beneath my tree. The glowing stones on its body illuminate the darkness, chasing the safety of my shadows away. I wait, not wanting to waste this chance by reacting too soon. Reaching into my pocket, I take careful aim—I will only get one shot at this. With everything that I have, I lob a handful of mud and silently rejoice to see it hit home, covering one of the glow stones on the creature’s shoulder. Instantly, the air around the stalker dims, and it wails as smoke sizzles from its body, while it flaps its arms urgently, trying to slap the mud away. Another shot, another glow stone covered in mud and the light is quenched. The creature screams, disoriented by pain as the fire consumes it, then collapses face first, before it can reach the safety of sunlight, writhing in agony.

I turn my attention to the other stalker. It looks from me to its companion, then quickly plucks two oranges from the tree and throws them at its fallen friend. The oranges hit the mark, covering over the remaining glow stones on the creature’s back, stifling the light and ensuring the stalker’s immediate death in flaming, orange scented smoke. Perhaps it was a compassionate move, like putting an animal out of its misery, but somehow I don’t think so.

The remaining stalker plucks another orange, looks through the branches, and gently tosses it to me. I fumble the catch. With another strange noise, the stalker rips one of the glow stones from the strap on its chest and tosses it up to me. This time I don’t fumble, and I grasp the precious stone with two hands. It nods to me, then at the charred remains of its fallen companion while pointing to its own stones. Cautiously, I clamber down the tree and edge toward the corpse, my eyes not leaving the stalker for one minute. I reach into my pocket for the last handful of mud, ready to hurl it should this remaining stalker make a single movement towards the shadows. It doesn’t move, standing perfectly still, watching me as cautiously as I watch it.

On trembling legs, I step nearer to the smoking corpse. The smell is dreadful, a charred, swampy stench tinged with burnt orange, that causes my eyes to water. I blink rapidly, determined not to lose sight of my enemy. Trying not to breathe in through my nose, I rummage through the charred remains to locate the four stones, two on the front of the corpse and two on the back. When I have them, I stand and search the face of the remaining stalker for any indication of what it is about to do. It’s hard to read the expressions on the reptilian face. The creature barely even blinks.

I hold a glow stone out toward it like an offering and it is then that I notice a change in expression. The mouth quirks up in the corner. Did it just smile? It gestures to its own stone, then points at me and chitters. I point to the stone in my hand, then point to myself and it tips its head. Did it just nod? I feel lightheaded. Have I just communicated with an alien?

It turns its back on me and walks back the way it came, so I use the opportunity to scurry away, silently slipping from shadow to shadow, all the way back to the mouth of our safe haven. Lil is waiting there for me, hiding in the shadows.

“Were you successful?” he asks.

“I think so.” I hand him an orange as I gather up the glow stones that we had left out to charge in the sun.

We, the left behind, may be the only humans left on Earth, but we aren’t the only people here. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it?

January 08, 2024 12:44

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50 comments

Marty B
06:21 Jan 13, 2024

World building in short stories is challenging, as it is hard to get the full scope of what the history is, what the rules are, and then great interesting characters. You pulled it off, and created an interesting alien vs woman interaction (I saw the MC as female). To recognize the enemy as human is the first step to understanding. The 'war' is changing. I can see this story continuing into many chapters. Thanks!

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Michelle Oliver
07:08 Jan 13, 2024

Thanks Marty. Not my usual genre to write so I’m glad the world building was successful and that you enjoyed the story.

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Claire Trbovic
16:09 Jan 12, 2024

Gosh this was a good one, I really enjoy Sci-fi / fantasy and I would read this book! The cadence and flow felt great, along with excellent world building. One of my favourite lines - 'like the ancient marines of old' haha Plea for a follow up story :)

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Michelle Oliver
22:50 Jan 12, 2024

Hmm follow up… maybe if the right prompt comes along. Thanks for reading.

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Michelle Oliver
13:08 Jan 16, 2024

Follow up story completed.

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Michał Przywara
21:37 Jan 09, 2024

Blasting aliens is good fun, but I think sci-fi really shines when you get to these kinds of face to face meetings. There's so much room for exploration here, for trying to communicate, never even certain if it's possible. Though in this case, it seems likely. Some kind of exchange went on between them, and though we don't know the ramifications, it was different than the usual murder-on-sight. What's it mean, though? I'm particularly curious about one alien seemingly sacrificing another - very curious indeed. Are they just cold pragmatic?...

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Michelle Oliver
23:00 Jan 09, 2024

Thanks for reading my first exploration into his genre. In my head this was going to be more confrontational, but this is the story the characters told. I too wonder about the stalker who acts differently to the others.

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Michał Przywara
02:16 Jan 10, 2024

Yeah, definitely good to listen to the characters :) It can be a slog trying to fight them.

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Michelle Oliver
02:25 Jan 10, 2024

Who’d have guessed that words on a page have a mind of their own 🤷

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Tammie Williams
12:45 Jan 19, 2024

I can't wait to see where this goes. Are you on Wattpad by any chance?

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Michelle Oliver
13:44 Jan 19, 2024

Thank you for reading. No, I’m not on Wattpad.

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Sherri Moorer
15:29 Jan 18, 2024

I can see a larger story, perhaps a novel, evolving from this. Excellent story! A compelling take on the prompt. As a scifi fan, I love it!

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Michelle Oliver
15:31 Jan 18, 2024

Thank you. I have written two more linked short stories.

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Flavia Gazdovici
16:57 Jan 15, 2024

The premise, the beginning of the story where the rich and famous get the first spots and then it's just a random hodge podge where everyone is looking for the proverbial number one, is just so... human. I liked the story!

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Michelle Oliver
22:01 Jan 15, 2024

Thanks for reading.

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Tammie Williams
19:23 Jan 14, 2024

OooooH, I love where this is going. I would love to read more.

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Michelle Oliver
20:48 Jan 14, 2024

Thanks for reading and I’m happy that you enjoyed it. Maybe one day I will tell he next part of the story.

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Michelle Oliver
12:31 Jan 16, 2024

I wrote a new instalment if you want to check it out.

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Tammie Williams
13:57 Jan 16, 2024

I would love to. Is it on the same page?

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Michelle Oliver
21:04 Jan 16, 2024

On my page

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Janet Boyer
18:41 Jan 14, 2024

Ohhhh I really liked this. I can't believe it's your sci-fi story! 😯 What makes the lizard aliens sizzle and die, exactly? Are the glow stones a type of protection? (I really want to know more about that "kind" alien!).

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Michelle Oliver
12:32 Jan 16, 2024

I have written more about that alien, if you want to read it.

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Janet Boyer
18:19 Jan 16, 2024

Ohhhh where? 😃

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Michelle Oliver
21:04 Jan 16, 2024

On my page

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Michelle Oliver
20:46 Jan 14, 2024

I’m happy that you enjoyed it. Maybe one day I will explore taking it further.

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16:20 Jan 14, 2024

Michelle! This was such a good sci-fi premise. The opening paragraphs do a beautiful job of telling us just enough information to set the scene without being over complicated, and that takes skill to do. I love that the Remnant left behind are still fighting and refusing to just give up. The interaction between narrator and alien was surprising, I was not expecting it and I was glad that this was the direction you took! It had a vague echo of “Ender’s Game”’for me, which was great. Very well done! 👏👏👏

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Michelle Oliver
20:45 Jan 14, 2024

Thanks for reading. I enjoyed writing this one. The story took me in a totally different direction than I expected, so I’m glad it worked.

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Sara Thomas
05:05 Jan 14, 2024

Cool, I like the glow stones, interesting aliens too.

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Michelle Oliver
05:19 Jan 14, 2024

Thanks I’m glad you enjoy it.

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Hi, Michelle. I love sci-fi, so I was very excited to see that you had written one. You always write such interesting stories. I never know what to expect! [We are the left behind, the ones who didn’t make the cut, the unlucky.] These opening words draw me in. I want to keep reading, to find out who left them behind, and why. The entire opening that follows does not feel like too much explaining, but like just enough. I find about how some left, and how some were left behind. I learn that the left behind regard the promise to return for ...

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Michelle Oliver
22:46 Jan 12, 2024

Wow thanks for this feedback, I am so grateful for the editing here and a going back to fix those now. As for you critique and analysis of the story thank you again. I enjoyed writing this and it’s not something I usually write so this feedback is appreciated.

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I see that you've said to many people who commented that you don't usually write sci-fi and you weren't sure how it would turn out. I think it turned out great! I really enjoyed it. I'm rooting for a sequel! (Speaking of that, looking at the prompts this week, I wonder if the one about the bar that doesn't serve alcohol might work—everything's apocalyptical, so the protagonist could meet the friendly Light Stalker in a ruined building. Or the prompt about the drought. If the crops are struggling, especially if the trees are getting sparse, ...

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Michelle Oliver
11:56 Jan 16, 2024

Ok Guadalupe, I did it, what do you think?

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Kailani B.
17:32 Jan 12, 2024

I did this prompt too and it's interesting to see the different paths we took. I like your idea of befriending the aliens and (hopefully) they can find a way to leave earth, or create a joint settlement. As an aside, I'm reading a book about naval navigation and it describes the effects of dying from scurvy and it is one of the more horrific things imaginable. So yes, vitamin C is essential for survival.

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Michelle Oliver
22:49 Jan 12, 2024

Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think for anything to be considered science fiction, there needs to be a few things in it that are facts, otherwise it’s just fantasy.

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Shirley Medhurst
13:41 Jan 12, 2024

I don’t usually read sci-fi, but I enjoyed your story very much. The hopeful ending was a very pleasant and unexpected twist too 😁

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Michelle Oliver
14:00 Jan 12, 2024

Thanks for reading. I don’t normally write sci-fi so I’m happy that you enjoyed it.

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Trudy Jas
04:57 Jan 12, 2024

I'm in awe. Seriously! I thought we were going to have Wall-E 2, but you went a whole different direction (not that I didn't fall in love with Wall-e) "Funny how that random selection ----" 1st chuckle. "Must be a teacher b/c he knows so much w/o computers." And you had me. You made me see the world differently. And I didn't even have to re-read paragraphs to understand (at midnight). I saw the light stalkers as moths, but you set me straight. Wish I could give you more than one "thumb."

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Michelle Oliver
06:01 Jan 12, 2024

Thanks for reading. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing this one. I don’t normally do sci-fi so thanks for your encouragement.

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Trudy Jas
07:23 Jan 12, 2024

Well, don't stop! Apparently, we can create our own strange, horrible, magical, sweet, (oh be still me heart) sexy(?) world with 26 characters. I'm addicted, aren't you?

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Hilary Lyons
22:56 Jan 10, 2024

I loved how much world building you did in a short piece. Kept me reading!

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Michelle Oliver
23:39 Jan 10, 2024

Thanks for reading.

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14:25 Jan 09, 2024

Exciting. Sci-fi suits you - we're yet to find a genre that doesn't!

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Michelle Oliver
14:37 Jan 09, 2024

Haha thanks. I’d be no good with horror or murder mystery as they are genres I don’t even read. I like reading sci fi, just never really thought I’d have the writing chops for it, so thanks for your encouragement.

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Mary Bendickson
17:45 Jan 08, 2024

Inventive story. The kind I think these prompts are looking for. It should do well.

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Michelle Oliver
22:19 Jan 08, 2024

Thanks I’m not too sure on this one. I think it still needs some polish. It’s way out of my comfort zone in terms of genre.

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Planning to leave a longer comment later, but I noticed one typo right now: [“We’re you successful?” he asks.] Should be {"Were}

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Michelle Oliver
23:01 Jan 09, 2024

Thanks for the pick up will fix it

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Noticed something else: [as I gather up the glow stones that we had left out to change in the sun.] Just checking, is [change] supposed to be {charge}?

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Michelle Oliver
01:29 Jan 11, 2024

Thanks so much. I read and re-read and still this slip past me!

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