It Could Be Worse
“Look at this! The wire’s ruined, chewed. A piece of it is missing. What sort of entity would do this? We can’t get out of here with a disabled external inertial dampener. I hate this planet.”
Sitting on a rock, Rkrrk kept his head down, letting his brother, Krkkr, rant. He was getting used to the rants, as they became more frequent. Rkrrk could almost play the rant recording in his head, even adding on the newest item at the same time as Krkkr did.
“I can’t believe you chose this planet – this poor excuse for a planet – for our vacation. ‘Let’s go hiking,’ you said. ‘It will be good for us to get away,’ you said.”
It was all true. Rkrrk had suggested that they take a vacation, had chosen the destination. He thought the water planet would be interesting, fun. There was so much to take in: flora and fauna they had never seen before, not in any other system. The Extreme Experiences brochure listed this planet as one with a little of everything. You just had to be in the right place at the right time, it said. The photos featured snow-capped mountains, white-tipped oceans, sandy beaches, majestic redwood trees, flowing rivers, rolling sand dunes, fields of flowers, astonishing sunrises, stunning sunsets. It spoke straight to the traveler’s heart: “What’s not to love?”
“What’s not to love?” Krkkr snarled, as if reading Rkrrk’s mind. Krkkr rummaged through the toolbox, tossing screwdrivers and wrenches over his shoulder. Rkrrk stepped back to a safe distance. “I’ll tell you what’s not to love!” Krkkr huffed, dropping some bolts at his feet. “Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, cyclones, lightning, thunder, tsunamis, blizzards, sandstorms. Flying ice balls, of all things! What are they called?”
Rkrrk looked over the expanse of the volcanic caldera. He saw the vapors rising, could smell the sulfur if the breeze was just right. And those water-spitting holes. Geysers. He loved the geysers. “Hail,” he said, ever so softly.
“Hail, right. Hail. Whose idea was that? The ship is all pock-marked now; dents everywhere. Every single place we have landed on this planet has been a disaster. Did you even think about checking the forecast before we left?”
It could be worse, Rkrrk mumbled under his breath, twisting a piece of buffalo grass in his hands. He had enjoyed all the sites they had visited, found them thrilling. On the other hand, Krkkr’s enthusiasm started to wane when they tried to get away from the twisty-wind thing. Tornado, the dictionary called it. Krkkr, a capable pilot, altered their flight path turning this way and that, up and down, side to side, but the tornado jumped from one spot to the other, sometimes behind them, sometimes in front of them, as if it knew their course before they did. Rkrrk had to admit, seeing trees, boulders, and planetary debris swirling in front of them, hearing things hitting the ship, that was a more than a little scary. The vacation brochure hadn’t mentioned those possibilities.
Once they escaped the tornado, they landed here to check the ship, camping a couple of days in the peace and calm of the basin. Now that they were ready to go, they couldn’t. Rkrrk didn’t know why Krkkr was taking it out on him. It’s not as if Rkrrk had chewed the wire.
“I just hope I can find a piece of wire to rig up a connection that will last long enough to get us off this hunk of junk. I tell you what, Rkrrk, I am never – and I mean never – coming back here. And you’re not choosing where we go for our next vacation – I am. A black hole rim would have been more fun than this.”
Rkrrk decided to remove himself from the vicinity, out of range of Krkkr’s ravings and tossed tools. “I’ll go check the aft hold, see if I can find something we can use.”
While Rkrrk was walking around the back of the ship, he saw a small creature with something in its mouth. (Rkrrk didn’t know its nomenclature and didn’t have time to check the ship’s computer.) It dropped something and ran off as Rkrrk approached. Rkrrk’s heart beat faster and his eyes widened. The external inertial dampener wire! Or what was left of it. Still, Rkrrk hoped, maybe there was enough length remaining so they could reconnect the now shorter version and take off.
As Rkrrk reached down, his knees buckled under him and he lost his balance, falling to the ground. The earth shook. Rkrrk rolled over, picked himself up. He looked up, saw – and heard – the mountain side crack, red goop flowing out of the numerous, new slits.
Is that . . . a volcano? Just like in the Extreme Experiences brochure! Rkrrk stood in awe, excited to witness it in person.
The ground moved again, rougher this time. Chasms appeared in the once-smooth field near the ship. Rkrrk saw smoke and ash spewing from the mountain top, lightning flashes in dark, billowing clouds where a clear sky had been just a moment before. Sulfur stung his eyes, his lungs. Specks of ash trickled down, covering everything, everywhere. It was getting dark, hot, and hard to breathe.
Rkrrk ran back to the ship, holding on to the wire for dear life.
The Friday Fictioneer Challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. My story is much longer than that and I didn’t want to cut it down. As it does not meet the challenge word limit, I did not add my link to the story page. But there are plenty of Friday Fictioneer writers who met the challenge limit and you can get to their stories by selecting the smiley blue frog.