“Clamp his two hands in strong chains” (speculative flash fiction)

I took this photo from Andree at Scribe's Cave, for a prompt she had in early March (that I missed). Apparently, it is the first photo-documented use of ether, circa 1855-1860. I was so disturbed by the photo, which I felt nefarious (especially in the "surgeon's" smug smirk), that I was compelled to write about it.

I used this photo from Andreé at Scribe’s Cave, who used it for a prompt she had in early March (that I initially missed). More info at end of story.

They caught me unawares, the young one and the two old enough to have hairy faces.

My body, their pelt, their possession. They sneered. I supposed they’d never heard tell of the Tamboti tree.

I could tell the wide blue-eyed one was scared, but he readied the trembling handkerchief anyway. Coerced, no doubt.

“We’ll make a lesson of yew, boy,” was the last sentence my ordinary limited senses lapped.

They were lucky the straps and the medication rivoted me temporarily in place as the haughty side man prepared the bone-saw and hot iron cross for my leg.

Photograph of the leopard from the African Wildlife Foundation. Please consider supporting their conservation efforts, if you can.

Photograph of a leopard, from the African Wildlife Foundation. Please consider supporting their conservation efforts.

The man under a dark drape held the box aloft, and I saw it flash through my eyelids even as I was transforming, screen of skin sliding in on itself.

I felt the color rising as my hide erupted in a riot of bristly hairs.

Soon my only instinct would be shunted toward a decision: do I play with these muslin bags of flesh before I shred them asunder?


First, more on the original photograph. Apparently, it is the first photo-documented use of ether, circa 1855-1860. I was so disturbed by the depiction, which I felt nefarious, that I felt compelled to write (or right, as the case may be) about it. After looking at the man on the table, my indignation sprang from what I interpreted as the “surgeon’s” smug look; admittedly, it’s difficult to see for certain, and I don’t have the “patient’s” backstory, although I seriously doubt informed consent was something practiced in those days, plus given the horrors of slavery, I’m doubtful the black man was either asked or told what they thought might happen during the operation. All that said, I could be incorrect, so please feel free to give me the backstory if you can provide data sources.

Now, as far as the discussion of the writing proper . . .

Please do check out One Starving Activist, where Andreé Robinson-Neal hosts Scribe’s Cave, especially if you’re a fan of speculative fiction (i.e., sci-fi, fantasy, or horror).

If you’re curious as to the partial inspiration/origin of this shape-shifter fantasy story, other than the awful legacy of slavery, particularly in American history, you have to look back to Greco-Roman myth and the character of Proteus.

“Aristaeus [the demi-god who invented beekeeping] wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete. His sea-blue mother [the Naiad Kyrene (Cyrene)] could scarcely console his pain, and attached these final words to her speech: ‘Stop your tears, my boy. Proteus will lighten your loss, and tell you how to regain what is gone. But so he does not baffle you by altering appearance, clamp his two hands in strong chains.’
The youth approaches the seer and binds the limp arms of the sleeping old man of the ocean. Proteus uses his art to shift and feign his looks, but soon resumes shape, mastered by chains.” — from Ovid, Fasti I, translated by Boyle (Fasti is the “Book of Days,” or, specifically, a partial poem in six books that detail the first six months of the Roman calendar)

In a different translation of Ovid from Latin (by James G. Frazer), Proteus is likened to a wizard rather than a seer.

Hot Rockin’ at World’s End: Dystopian Flash Fiction

Source: imgur.com via Scribe's Cave, Picture Prompt #34

Source: imgur.com via Scribe’s Cave, Picture Prompt #34.


Short lexicon to follow story.


 Hot Rockin’ at World’s End

Genre: Dystopian science fiction, literary fiction

Word Count: 296 (without lexicon)

Warning!! Harsh adult language & violence might not be suitable for younger readers.

Schrödinger’s Cat had rounded up enough interested parties—or,  more to the point, partiers—for one last, big bang-yer-head at the end of time. Sure, part of the lure had been the location. All the underground dead trees had shrieked in King Diamond font:

“Kewlest Party of ANY Century! DON’T MISS special guests Megaton Leviathan and Eddie’s Hammers, Dec. 31, 2099, Erasin’ Hell at the Mosh Room!”

WorldCits with special oc-imps did a slam dance at the prospect offered by the small type, in Britny Fox font of course, promising 37⁰C temps at partytime. “BC’s fridginest freakhouse,” it shrilled.

“But, the acoustics. Color me concerned,” singer and theremin player Blind Watchmaker complained to Schrö.

“It’ll be fine, bro’. Former colliders like the ‘Shroom have excellent sound capabilities, I’m told. Besides, everybody there will be so busy stonin’ and bonin’ . . .” Although he shit-grinned, consummate concert-promoter that he was, Schrö let his voice lose volume, as if the answer to Armageddon was always achingly obvious.

“And the poser was at least partly right,” Blind Watchmaker was to recount years later. “Desperate WCs did surface for the gig—droves of them—and the sounds were tight. I think if a person was outside in the withering Canadian sun at 10 a.m., he probably still woulda felt the music crunchin’,” he pointed at the dead-center of his chest, “about here, instead of hearin’ it.”

The truth was that nobody had anticipated literal carnage. Sardined in the metal musical box, leather on jeans on synfibes like Ex-Spand, ‘bangers were squashed underboot like long-haired lightning bugs. Either trampled or crushed against coils of chilled niobium tin, some 4,700 lost their lives for love of loudness.

And still, the new century dawned, a sunken sun under the skin of night.

 LEXICON:

BC: British Columbia, a Canadian province.

Dead trees: Something like the newspapers and tabloids of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Oc-imps: Ocular implants.

Synfibes: Synthetic fibers (example: Ex-Spand).

WorldCits (thereafter, WCs): World citizens, as people of this dystopian future are called.


Written for Andreé’s weekly Scribe’s Cave photo challenge. Andreé’s own speculative fiction response to the prompt is here — and stay tuned, prose spelunkers, because her newest spec-fic book is due in November. I always love me a late-Halloween lit baby! And fellow metalfans, see if you can find all the 20th- and early 21st-century heavy-metal bands, songs, and other tropes.