Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and twenty-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is a 489-worder by short story writer, poet and novelist Paula Friedman – a love story with difference. This story will be podcasted in episode 38 (with three other stories / with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 22nd March.
Sentience (© 2013 Paula Friedman)
All this happened in 2465, before the Interstellar Manifest in Recognition of each World-born Sentience.
We were still young. I was Parna’s female attaché on conquered Lanos, new to Erigan’s soaring towers and the work. I loved the silvered skies, bold golden clouds, white waves. Garando was (surprisingly, as masculine Erigis of Lanos are generally sombre like our own) a striking, gold-furred, brilliant creature, fluent in eight worlds’ languages, someone who had known and suffered much, my learned good friend and mentor in those months. So wondrous he was, Garando, as we trekked the blasted Flith peaks over Yomba, toured sculptures of the Isle of Lan, wandered torn museums where he helped me comprehend Erig traditions, and by evening leaned, sleek head to golden breast and toes to claws, together on the rail-ride back to Erigan. I trembled beholding his dark warmth, longed to stroke that tawny pelt, sense feathery feelers on my skin, his swift thoughts in my soul. And he, self-trancing on my “innocence,” yearned deep—I now know—too.
Remember, this was Parna-years before the Lanos Rising and resultant worlds-wide revolutions that, arising from the Seekers Movement, gave each sentience a trust in self to freely seek out love. We were afraid.
“Hold me, beauty,” Garando’s tongue flicked. His fur misted my palms. We rode the lift, gilt air below pricked by clear spires of Erigan. We wrapped together, dark electric, under Silver Moon.
So few sentiences dared cross species then; I did not understand. He licked my eyelids; bathed in musk-scent, we sought joy. Who could know a male Eregi needs . . . what, ignorant, I could not give. For hours we lay unspent. Until, though shamed by failure, I dared look up into his orbs.
And he said, “Ah well, beauty, I found a healer once; you should, as well. That you may someday cease to twist an Erig’s gift.” Yet his feeler stroked my cheek. I could not doubt him; I left, descending the Thousand Steps. His words had cut a horror of my heart.
Much as our invasion fleets had etched, through that millennium, horror into his world. Leaving the puppet caste of Lanos to carve Erigis’ minds. To teach them doubt of I and Thou, divide and isolate.
No matter. But it was only through Revolution’s changes we could free our truths of selves. Only in the years we struggled, together as one—we Parnese, Earthians, Erigs—on Jaranda’s barricades, space-trails of Har—could we learn, in sweat and tears, how deep all sentients love. Only through our struggles could I see, at last, Garando had been wrong, the “twisting” neither mine nor his but concepts foisted in Erigis by our long invasion, and in we Parnese females by our straitened lives. Indeed, I had only, wholly, loved him.
Now it is another courage needed, an age away on far Sil’s sands, knowing what we briefly had and ever lost.
I asked Paula what prompted this piece and she said…
“Sentience” is a tale of love between alien species, and thus science fiction, yet the story is based in my own youthful relationships and in how political struggles for peace and freedom liberated my sense of self.
Initially, I wrote “Sentience” for the February 2013 Science Fiction Microstories Contest of the science fiction discussion groups on LinkedIn. This monthly contest has evolved into a strong and supportive group of professional and near-professional writers, and I am honored to be putting together its anthology of selections for ebook publication in spring 2014.
Thank you, Paula. It was fun reading something out of the norm. Good luck with the anthology.
Paula Friedman’s literary historical novel The Rescuer’s Path (2012, PVP) has received considerable acclaim; Ursula Le Guin called it “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic”; Cheryl Strayed says it “held me from the first line to the last”; Flannery O’Connor Award winner Carole Glickfeld states “I could not stop reading—I loved this novel.”
Paula’s short fiction and poetry have received Pushcart Prize nominations and New Millenium Writing, Oregon State Poetry Association, Indigo Press, Soapstone, and other awards and residencies, and have appeared in over thirty magazines and anthologies, including Earth’s Daughters, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Montreal Serai, and First of the Month.
A writing instructor in northern Oregon and a freelance book editor for university and trade presses, Friedman is putting together an anthology of science fiction microstories. She previously directed the prestigious international Rosenberg Awards in Jewish poetry, managed public relations for a major Jewish museum, edited the progressive Open Cell literary review/collective, and co-edited the anthology Gathered from the Center.
If you’d like to submit your 6-word or 500-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here, or up to 1,000 words for critique on my Online Short Story Writing Group (links below).
- and guest blogs about short stories on this blog: Alberta Ross, Jane Hertenstein, Helen M Hunt, Morgen Bailey, Sarah Grace Logan, Warren Bull.
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, various short story collections and writer’s block workbooks) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post a spotlight or interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique directly (see Editing & Critique) or for posting on the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.