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Friday, December 09, 2011

#FridayFlash: Bait

“Mom! Dad! Shinies!” Elly and Sam ran to the back door, yanking at the doorknob, as Kyle climbed onto an end table and pressed his face against the window. In the scrapyard behind their house, the contents of a transparent box glittered.

“Whoa! Kids!” Mom clapped her hands twice; the two older kids turned to give her pleading looks. Kyle paid no attention. “What have we told you about shinies? Especially on cloudy days?”

Kyle, still pressed against the window, said, “The aliens are fishing. If you try to get the shinies, they’ll pull you up there. Then they’ll fry you and eat you.” His nose, pressed against the window, made him sound strange.

“That’s not true,” Sam protested. “They throw you back if you’re too little.”

“You wouldn’t taste good anyway.”

“Kyle!” Mom warned him, touching Sam to cut off a rejoinder. Kyle huffed and continued to watch.

“It came down out back?” asked Dad, coming through the front door and wiping his dirty hands on his shirt. Mom nodded.

“Jane at school says they always throw people back,” said Elly. “She said her uncle got caught, and they put him in a glider. He could see the whole world, and he knew kinda where he lived, so he tried to glide back home. But he still had to walk for a week after he landed.” She ran to give Dad a quick hug, then returned to the door.

“It’s my turn,” said Mom. She shooed Elly and Sam away from the door.

“Mom!” they protested.

“If we let you come outside to watch, do you promise to stay with me on the deck?” Dad asked.

All three kids cheered their agreement, and Kyle jumped down and joined the others in a flash. Mom opened the door, slipped through first, then stood at the steps and pointed the kids to the deck. They complied, grumbling, Dad grinning behind them. He picked up the spotlight while Mom got the hooksticks. This was the only life the kids had ever known: aliens in the sky, enticing people with shinies, and grownups playing tricks on the aliens. Their parents remembered a world in some ways better, yet poised on the brink of self-destruction, before the aliens changed everything. Dealing with aliens was hazardous, but a box of shinies was the only kind of wealth that mattered these days.

Dad pressed a button. The spotlight itself was a shiny — a piece of alien technology, bait taken from some earlier fishing trip. It showed no light of its own, but now a thin arc glowed above the shinies where Dad pointed it. “See that?” The kids nodded. “That’s their line. It’s a monomolecular filament, and it’ll stick to your skin or clothes if you touch it. Then you’re caught. That’s why we use the hooksticks. And that’s why one of us shines the line, so the other won’t get caught.”

“What’s mono— mono-leck-er?” Kyle asked.

Monomolecular, stupid,” said Sam. It means it’s one piece and you can’t cut or break it.”

“Mom!” Kyle yelled. “Sam called me stupid! Could you stick him to the line?”

Mom caught the line with one hookstick. Without turning, she said, “If you two don’t stop, I’ll put you both on the line!”

“He started it,” Kyle muttered, soft enough that only Dad heard. He and Sam made faces at each other then turned to watch Mom. Elly ignored her two younger brothers, watching Mom and looking worried.

Mom used the second hookstick to catch the hook and pull it out of the shiny bait. The kids cheered as it came loose.

“This is the dangerous part,” Dad told the kids. “A gust of wind can blow the line around, maybe get loose and catch your mom. This is why you should never play around with shinies. We can use them, but we don’t understand them all that well, and they can be dangerous.”

“What kind of shinies are they, Dad?” asked Elly.

“We’ll find out in a few minutes.” He called to Mom, “The truck. It’s closest.”

Mom nodded, watching the line and glancing at her footing as she eased the hook over to the rusty flatbed truck. Using the hookstick, she slipped the aliens’ fishing hook onto the tow point after a few tries. Then she stepped back, tightening the line, and pulled hard.

The line snapped straight, jerking the hookstick out of Mom’s loose grip and sending it flying across the scrapyard. With a groan, the truck lifted into the air, swinging and twisting. Mom dropped the second hookstick and dashed for the deck. The kids watched gaping as the truck dwindled and disappeared into the clouds.

“We need to get in the shelter for a while, kids,” said Dad. “If that truck comes loose, it’ll squash anything it lands on!” He hugged Mom. “Great job. As always.”

Other than a usual Kyle-Sam squabble, they spent an uneventful half hour in the shelter. Finally, Mom said, “Let’s go see what they left us,” and the kids dashed shrieking into the daylight and the scrapyard.

“That’s a keeper!” Zubba chittered, looking at the truck twisting on the hook.

“Yeah,” said Xob. He used his gaffe to pull the catch onboard. The two of them squelched over to it, examining it for a few minutes. “Hey Zubba… you think they’ll ever figure out we’re fishing for iron?”


  1. This is a fun read with some great humour threaded all the way through.

  2. Ha ha, =D bickering while your parents fish for shinies is the new acting up in the supermarket... ;)

    Fun flash, FAR. Playful and creative. =)

  3. Oh, I loved the child-logic they spread. Aliens are fishing!

  4. Great fun, FAR! It's too bad they all don't just talk it over. We could easily spare lots of iron for more of that yummy alien tech.

  5. The creativity and ideas you have put into this are brilliant. You certainly (wait for it...here it comes...) had me hooked!

    The aliens remind me of the recurring aliens in The Simpsons.

  6. I kept going back and forth, wondering if they were fish in a cartoony, human-like world (say like spongebob) or actual humans :)

    Well done!

  7. Oh I loved this! Really inventive and I love that ending. Nice funny little twist.

  8. Hi all! I'm not sure where this came from. I think it was several thoughts that tried to get thought all at once, and my brain turned sideways and spit out a story.

    Quinn, John, it came out whimsical and subsequent go-overs didn't change things.

    JohnW, kids have their own rumor mills and news sources, you know!

    Tony, the aliens find it more sporting to fish for it.

    Flyingscribber… *snort*

    Raven, and it's already refined! Just have to melt it down.

    Thanks, Michael. I'm sure the parents wonder the same thing sometimes!

    Icy, thanks — can you have fishing without a couple good-ol'-boys involved?

  9. Whoops, I missed Sonia! Sorry about that!

  10. Now that was a great twist.

    The whole idea of the kids fighting while the parents are trying to catch shinies, in fear for their life, and all the time all the aliens want is scrap iron!

    Very creative Larry and great fun!

  11. Is this IRONy? ;-)

    These aliens really are green in that they recycle old iron.

  12. Oh I love it, brilliant stuff FAR. :)

    I have sometimes wondered, after a fish has been caught and returned to the water, does it think it's been the victim of an alien abduction?

  13. So much fun to read, FAR! And I'm pretty sure I've had some fish pull stunts like this on me when I'm fishing. Brilliant ending, too.

  14. I'm with Michael, I thought they might actually be fish. Fun story, Far.

  15. Great premise, fun and scary at the same time. There's a slight malevolent undercurrent (maybe I'm thinking of War of the Worlds and those tentacles) ..and a feeling that the adults are complicit with the aliens? Do kids have more iron?

  16. Very cool :-)) Love the simple term "shinies"...I'd definitely be caught!

  17. Thanks Helen! I laughed when I got the story idea, and this was a fun one to write…

    Boran, boo hiss! :-D

    Steve, I guess it depends on whether the fish gets "probed" first…

    Chuck, that reminds me of the book Arty the Smarty I read when I was a kid. Arty was a fish who put boots etc. on fishhooks.

    Thanks, Danni!

    Tom, I think Mom was just telling the kids to shut it rather than making an actual threat… but hey, you never know!

  18. Wow, so imaginative. Thought at first they were fish, but then the further you read the more it becomes a proper sci-fi short.

  19. I don't know how you did it but you made an alien abduction a thing the whole family can look forward to.

    Shinies reminds of school it's what we used to call shiny marbles :).

  20. Morning!

    Li, sorry I missed you yesterday — must have been a simul-post. I do an occasional podcast called "Shiny things!" which may have had something to do with the choice of term. ;-)

    Thanks Tim! Mrs. Fetched rarely (if ever) "gets" my humor so I get gunshy about being funny sometimes.

    Craig, I don't know about it being a family outing, but it would be a convenient way to relocate in a hurry!

  21. Awesome flash piece! I love the twist at the end. :)

  22. You have a deft touch with youngsters and the way you capture their bickering provides a nice foreground to the rich world you've created. A fun read.

  23. Argh, I did it again — sorry, Chris! Yes, I was going for at least a feel of inversion there… if not immersion. :-)

    Thanks, Cherie!

    Aidan, my in-laws are in their 50s and they still act like that! :-P

  24. FAR,

    Very enjoyable! Love the fear of the humans and how the Aliens are really only looking for iron :-) Very well done!

    All the best,

  25. I think it's all been said above, but this is cute, very cute.

  26. Thanks Paul — even if they throw you back, it has to be traumatic to get yanked into the sky then dropped a long way from home…

    Thanks, Peter!


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