Archive for the ‘Stella Stories’ Category

Full Moon

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

I awoke with a start, unsure what it was that had broken into my sleep. For a minute I was confused, the room was bright with a pale lemony light but it was clearly not time to get up. It was I realised moonlight. Perhaps the light had woken me? I listened and could hear nothing other than the occasional creaks of the old Elm floorboards in my bedroom. My breath was smoke in the cold sharp air of this winter night. I slipped out of bed, not bothering with my slippers, and clambered up onto the window seat. The glass was thick with frost and the moonlight flooded through it; showcasing the strange geometric crystalline patterns the icy film had formed. I placed my hand on the pane, the cold jolted me but almost immediately the glass beneath cleared. Taking it away I was left with a hand shaped porthole. First I squinted through my middle finger and then shifted my gaze to the palm.

The sight was hypnotic; the garden bathed in moonlight seemed as though I was looking through a pale amber spyglass. There was no colour, but this was no black and white movie rather a symphony of subtle shades. The Cotswold stone walls stood patiently warding the garden from whatever was creeping in the night. The grass was white and sparkled with the ice jewels that had been sprinkled over it. The phlegmatic fir tree stood massive watching on, as the frost glazed the world. It was as if something was calling me. I quickly dressed and made my way downstairs making sure I avoided the steps that squeaked, the ones that every boy knows about. Into the kitchen where the dying embers of last night’s fire was still reddening the mantel piece. The only sound was the ticking of the clock and the faint sounds of my parent’s snores. I quietly slipped the bolts on the stable door to the scullery. As I silently slipped through I was greeted by the joyful wagging of a tail, my dog was always passionate in her love. I fussed her silently, shushed her and bid her lie back in her basket then after slipping on my shoes I slipped the latch on the back door and stepped out.

It was almost painfully cold. I looked around nothing to see but was startled by the sound of a vixen barking nearby. The grass crackled and snapped under my feet. I felt drawn to the fir tree and as I came closer I could see there was a shape on the ground under it. An alien thing not something we had left there the day before. Two mores steps and I too became frost. The shape was human. My skin crawled and the hair on the back of my neck rioted as the shape moved so I could make visual sense of what I was seeing: an old man with ragged clothes and a scabrous face. I was frozen to the spot. And then he spoke.

“So boy, you heard me then?” he smiled showing a perfect set of ivory teeth.

“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”

I was a statue

“Mind that wasn’t always the case. You’re lucky. I used to be a werewolf once but not anyMOOOOOREEEEE.”

Charlie Markwick Poet, Storyteller, Writer, Performer @crescentmen |

The Alpha and the Omega

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

If you poke God in the eye he’s bound to get pissed. At least that’s what the Luddites back on Earth are saying. We spent ten years building the Massive Lunar Interferometer, then another six months calibrating the damned thing. At last, we got some clear signals – our first sampling of very low-frequency radio waves from the beginnings of time. After two more months of number crunching by the eggheads back on Earth, we were rewarded with mankind’s first glorious glimpse at the big bang itself. The celebration did not last long.

While most of the world’s astronomers were focused on the view from the dark side of the moon damned if Hell didn’t open up this side of Mars in the form of an uncharted comet now dubbed Hades.

I always figured we’d destroy ourselves via one of the usual suspects – war, overpopulation, genetically modified biotics. The Near Earth Object Defense System had rendered threats from asteroids and comets a thing of the past, or so we thought. The odds of an object too large for the system to handle were astronomical – no pun intended. Well, Hades is just such an object – a mostly water/ice comet larger than Deimos that no one saw coming in anywhere near enough time.

If the calculations are right it impacted just east of the Azores about two minutes ago. So here we are on the far side of the moon gathered ’round the base of Array #7 watching for the plume of ejecta to rise over the horizon. Marv says it should be beautiful.

by J.M. Strother ~ © 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

The Secret Got Out

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

By Charlie Chitty

As the interview wound down, Neil Armstrong made the joke that he knew the viewers would enjoy. In fact, they always did.

“And whilst it’s likely that we’ll be back at some point.” said Neil. “I can confirm that the moon is, contrary to popular belief, not made of cheese.”

The audience members laughed and Chris Tassler smiled. He imaged all the audiences across America laughing at this grizzled old explorer, some older audience members remembering the Apollo 11 landing with Buzz Aldrin and telling their children and grandchildren about it. Even better, sometimes they’d record it for when they had a moment in their damn lives that wasn’t taken up with those bleepy mobiles or stupid video games. It wasn’t ratings, but it was almost as good.

Chris suddenly remembered he had to talk.

“I’m sure glad of that, Neil! Thanks for coming in today!”


As the camera lights faded and Chris had to go to his next segment about a skateboarding puppy, he saw Neil muttering something out of the corner of his eye. It sounded like “Quick”.

After Alfie the pup had done a few skateboarding tricks, Brian had noted that the weather was “Cloudy with a high chance of rain despite the fact we’re in July, making it the perfect day to snuggle up in a corner of your house and sip a hot chocolate whilst listening to the rainfall.” and that was the news for the day.

Chris saw Neil after the show on his way back to his guest dressing room and he gave him a sly wink. Chris smiled back, before heading back to his own. And he sat, and he waited five minutes, and when he had an idea that perhaps Neil was decent, he went to go and knock on his door.

“Is it the sound guy? I took my mic off and put it in the purple box just like-

“No, it’s Chris.”

“Oh? Come on in!”

He entered Neil’s dressing room and was immediately taken by just how different Neil looked. Make-up off, suit replaced with stonewashed jeans and a t-shirt, Neil could easily be mistaken for just some old guy instead of the first man on the moon.

“I’m a big fan.” Chris started. And it was true, he’d always loved astronauts. “And I was just wondering if I could trouble you for a quick signature?”

He held out a white pad and a biro. Neil dutifully scribbled on it and handed it back.

“If you think it’ll be worth something in the next few years, I’ll have you know that I’m still doing my morning jogs and feel fit as a fiddle.”

Chris laughed at the joke, somewhat dutifully.

“I was also wondering- “Yes?”

“I was wondering what you muttered under your breath at the end of the interview? When the cameras were going to the next segment?”

Neil stared at Chris. His eyes shone.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

And with that, he got up and left the room.

Half of his belongings were still on the dresser.

A week later, Chris Tassler got a telephone call. He never answered it, for he was in the garden under the summer sun, watering his freesias. But he did get the voicemail.

“Chris, I need to talk to you. I can’t hold this secret in anymore. You have to know. The whole damn world has to know, before this whole damn house of cards comes crashing down. Meet me at the little pub at the end of your drive. And watch out for people in dark sunglasses.”

And so Chris found himself walking down to The Abbott Inn, in the pouring rain, that very next day.

He found Neil Armstrong in the back of the pub, looking out slightly wistfully at the pub garden as the rain lashed down. There was something about him that looked slightly defeated, and even his bright yellow macintosh looked oddly weary.

“I suppose you already have some idea of what I said.” began Neil.

“Quick?” he replied. “There’s something bad coming, that we need to prepare for?”

Immediately, Chris’s heart rate tripled. Something was coming. His brain ran off thoughts about asteroid belts, exploding stars, even-

“Have they found us?”

Neil blinked.


“The, uh, you know.”

“The what?”


Neil, laughed. A full bodied laugh that somehow made Chris’s heart rate slow.

“Oh, you thought I said ‘quick’! No, no, no, my dear boy!”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“I said Quark.” Chris’s heart rate quadrupled. The quarks are expanding. Protons are dying. Reality itself is folding and we’ll all-

“The structure of a proton?” he asked, hoping that Neil wouldn’t notice his concern. “Up Quarks and Down Quarks like we learned in Science?”

Now Neil looked impatient.

“No. I mean Quark.”

And with that, Neil reached down into his backpack and pulled out a plastic pot. Chris realised some time later, that it was a variant of a popular yoghurt snack.

And Chris sat there, with the first man on the moon, as he tucked into a Sainsbury’s version of a Muller Corner.

In between swallows, he spoke.

“You’ve probably been wondering why cafes are starting to sell Almond, Soya, Coconut or other kinds of useless milks that taste awful, right? And you’ve probably wondered why the weather has been so erratic lately, yes?”

Chris nodded, looking at the rain outside as it splashed onto the patio. The decorative candles in their glass Coke bottles hissed and one went out in a thin puff of smoke.

“It has been odd.” he replied.

“Yeah, well, NASA are preparing the population for it.”

“You’ve lost me.”

Neil considered, chewing his words as he chewed a dried apricot from the corner pocket of his yoghurt.

“Of course, the moon was never made out of cheese. Space has no oxygen, and so the resultant ball you see in the sky is more the texture of soured yoghurt. Quark. The quark, as few people know, came from the bolide that hit earth and-

“Eliminated the dinosaurs?”

“Dinosaurs don’t exist,” said Neil Armstrong. “Please keep up, Mr Tassler.”

Chris opened his mouth, but the words just failed. Neil Armstrong continued.

“The Gigacows, bovine monstrosities with nine hundred udders, were killed by the impact of the bolide and the seas, kilometres upon kilometres of milky marshes, were thrust by the trajectory of our planet into space.”

Neil smiled at me, waiting for the response.

“You’re telling me,” Chris began. “That the Earth isn’t made of cheese?”

“Correct.” said Neil Armstrong.

“Because it’s actually made out of yoghurt?”

“Correct.” said Neil Armstrong.

Chris laughed.

Neil smiled.

“It’s fine that you don’t believe me, because you’ll all be faced with the truth in just a matter of weeks. The chief scientists of the world have tried to stop it, but nothing will stop the impact.”

Chris felt the colour draining from his face.

Neil pulled out a picture from his backpack. The rain continued to patter outside and Chris stared mournfully at the pint of Monk’s Beard that he no longer wanted to drink.

“You see this?” said Neil, pointing at the picture and grinning. “Ever wonder about the shadow?”

Chris stared at the picture, one he was familiar with but was always so grainy on television or in books.

The shadow of the flag wasn’t a shadow.

“It’s a patch of blackcurrant jam!” Neil laughed. “Buzz took some preserves that his wife made us on the Apollo mission and-

“This is an awful joke, and however much they’re paying you, you’ve sold out your integrity and any respect that I had for you.”

Chris could feel himself shaking slightly and began to realise how angry he was, his hands gripping the wooden table so hard that they turned white.

Neil looked taken aback.

“I’m not lying, Chris. Haven’t you ever wondered why our footprints went so deep into the bedrock? Haven’t you considered-


Chris was suddenly aware that two men at the bar had stopped talking and were staring at them.

And that he was standing up.

And that he’d sloshed his pint down his front.

Chris left, and never heard from Neil Armstrong again.

Two weeks later, The Splattering happened. The moon simply fell out of the sky and hit Earth.

“Nobody.” Chris said. “Could have seen it coming.”

The teleprompter continued as Chris felt his voice rise and swell whilst he read the casualties as they ran down the screen in bright neon lettering that he’d never forget until the day he died.

“Four hundred people with severe lactose intolerance were immediately hospitalised and three thousand towns and cities have been buried until the liquid debris from the moon.”

He swallowed.

“Seventy five percent of the dairy firms worldwide have had to make staff cutbacks due to the sudden accessibility of milk. We go live now to a milk farmer from Aberdeen. Angus, how are you?”

The studio camera cut to an angry man surrounded by curds. “Well to tell you honest, Chris, I’m bloomin’ irked! That was my livelihood that’s gone up in roons! Roons, I tell ye!”

“And is there anything positive that’s come out of this?” Chris said, from the London studio, his voice breaking ever so slightly.

“Well,” sighed the farmer. “There is one thing.”

He gestured to his puppy. “I’m sure you remember Alfie.”

Alfie the skateboarding puppy stood on his skateboard, panting happily as he crested wave after wave of quark.

“He’s taken quite a liking to surfing.”

The camera cut back to the London studio, and when it did so, millions of viewers saw a man in a suit with his head in his hands. His cue cards lay next to him, forgotten, as he sobbed.


Sunday, July 21st, 2019

By J.M. Strother

Amy squinted through the eyepiece. The glow from the city dimmed the stars, but the view through Mike’s telescope was still awe-inspiring.“The tail will be visible to the naked eye by late next month,” Mike said as Amy stepped away and turned her face skyward. Mike took his sister’s place at the optics. Eurus was a bluish-white smear just off the star Tucana.

“I never even heard of the Centaurs before,” Amy said as she sat down on the grass.

“You’ve heard of Chiron?”


Mike stepped around the telescope and sat beside her. “It’s a Centaur. People think it’s some kind of moon for Pluto or something, but it’s not. It was the first Centaur they discovered. They find more all the time.”

She looked over at Mike and smiled. Her big brother was now famous – the seventeen-year-old amateur astronomer who first discovered this new outer solar system body. She could not help but feel some pride for him.

As the person who discovered it Mike got to pick its name. She wanted him to name it Amy, but he just laughed at that. He chose Eurus – the Greek god of the southeast ill winds.

They both laid back and gazed up at the stars. It would not be long before their parents called them back to the campsite.

“What will it be like when it gets here?” Amy asked.

He turned his head away, a tear escaped from his eye. “Well,” he said, “things will be different.”

The wind shifted and smoke from the burning city below began to obscure the sky. ~ © 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.


Sunday, July 21st, 2019

by J.M. Strother

Commander Jenkins scanned the ridgeline, left to right. Behind him, he heard Tuck Kinner release the safety on his 3600. He half-turned toward him. “I said no weapons.”

“Just being prudent,” Tuck answered.

“Put it up.” From the lack of any sound, Jenks knew Tuck hesitated.


He heard the safety click back on. According to Mitch Turner, the Rabolli just wanted to talk. Not that he particularly trusted Mitch Turner, not after what he pulled.

He did a rough headcount. Looked like there must be thirty Rabolli showing themselves. No telling how many waited just out of sight behind the ridge. He heard a quick intake of breath from Tuck – ah, there was Mitch, stepping into view, flanked by two of the natives.

“I suppose there is nothing but to get to it.” He half-turned to his second in command. “If this is a trap, kill Turner.”

“My pleasure,” Tuck assured him.

He stepped away from the relative safety of the Rover and started up the slight incline. Sandy soil gave way under every step. It made for hard going, and by the time he met Mitch and the two Rabolli about midway he was out of breath. The thinner atmosphere of Eridani 3 didn’t help in that regard.

Eridani 3 was officially uninhabited, according to InterStell. Jenks still was not sure if the boneheads Earthside believed that to be true, or if they had all been lied to when the expedition took form. Not that it mattered now – the nearly 30 light-years distance between mother Earth and Eridani ensured this was a one-way trip. No interplanetary Marines would be rushing in to the rescue. He and his 1300 colonists were on their own. Somehow an accommodation had to be worked out.

He stopped about ten feet shy of the trio coming down the hill. They paused. Turner gazed past Jenkins to assess the threat from the party gathered near the rover. The two Rabolli eyed Jenks with interest, a nearly sub-audible conversation playing back and forth between them. No one carried any weapons, at least not openly. The larger of the two aborigines took a step forward, clasped a hand over its thorax and spoke, seemingly addressing Jenks.

“What did he say?” Jenks asked.

Mitch drew his attention back to the immediate situation. “He says welcome and blessings upon you.”

The Rabolli gazed from Jenks to Mitch then back again, apparently expecting a reply.

“Tell him thank you and blessing upon him and his.”

“Hand to throat,” Mitch said. “It’s a sign of respect.” Jenkins returned the gesture as Mitch did the translation.

How Mitch ever leaned this sing-song half speech half musical language was beyond him. Three months in captivity apparently worked wonders in the education department.

The smaller of the two Rabolli then moved forward. It too covered its thorax. Jenks returned the gesture. It then launched into a long monolog, accompanied by many gesticulations of its arms, pointing at the rover, making sweeping motions with its hands.

“What was that all about?”

“I explained the situation to them,” Mitch said. “That we can’t leave, that we are beyond the reach of any assistance.”

“You did what?” The threat of reinforcements had been swept away.

“They outnumber us by about ten-thousand to one.”

Jenks didn’t like where this was going.

“The good news is, they are not interested in wiping us out.”


“As long as we accept their terms.”

Jenkins waited.

“We can stay as long as we withdraw to the other side of the Namonnapii.”

Jenks looked back over his shoulder. The land on the other side of the Namonnapii desert was rough, less fertile. It would be a hardscrabble existence for years to come. But with the microbots and heavy equipment, they would certainly be able to make a go of it.

“And they want our technology.”

This brought Jenks back round fast. “No way.”

Mitch just cocked his head to the side as if to say, oh yeah?

“We can’t give them our tech.”

“They could just take it from your cold dead hands.”

Jenkins began to bristle.

“Come on, Commander. You think they are going to be content to live in the stone age when they’ve seen what we can do? They are not interested in weapons. They want electricity. Water pumps. Rovers. Medbots. In exchange, they are willing to let you have the entire western coastline. Sounds like a deal to me.”

“You coming back with us?” Jenks asked.

“So you can hang me as a traitor? No thanks. I’ll stick around here and help ‘em figure out how things work.”

“You’re assuming I’ll agree.”

“So tell me you don’t.”

Jenkins stared at Mitch for a long time. Finally, his shoulders slumped and he nodded. “OK, but no weapons.”

Mitch sing-songed to the two Rabolli after which the smaller of the two stepped forward and extended a hand. Jenks automatically extended his own and was surprised to find this creature’s handshake warm and firm.

“Eets sa pleesure dooing beesness id thoud,” it said, giving him a horrendous impersonation of a smile.

Mitch grinned. “They’re quick learners, Commander. Oh, and can you leave the Rover? They want to practice driving.” ~ © 2011 by J. M. Strother

At Least We Didn’t Call It Goofy

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

by J.M. Strother

The fleet slowed to sub-light speed in the shadow of the moon, all indications their approach had gone completely unnoticed.“Command-dak Ahnmoshgnagrif, all ships reporting, ready and in position,” Comms-head Ihurehriv informed him.

Command-dak Ahnmoshgnagrif rose on his four legs to full height, swiveling his eye-stalks to take in every member of his helms-crew. All were poised and ready. His heart-sack thrummed with pride. He waved a forefoot toward the wall and the plasma display field flicked on.

“Open the Hypercom, that I may address the troops.”

“Hypercom open, Sir.”

The Command-dak turned toward the field so he could be seen by all.

“Attention all ships. Attention all hands. In a few moments, we will deploy in the Ter Rhan Gu attack formation. We will be detected upon deployment, but our adversaries will have no time to react. Today the glory and honor of the Jhungrhuani will be restored. You will live forever in the heart-sacks of our people. Never again will the Jhungrhuani be insulted by these pretentious little bastards.”

The audacity of these puny Humans – downgrading Jhungrhu to planetoid status. Never mind that they couldn’t even get the name right. They’d get a downgrade, alright, to the newest asteroid belt in the solar system. ~ © 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

The Flying Machine

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Mary and Jean are ever so keen
to explore space in a flying machine
This flying machine belongs to their ma
Who borrowed it from their grandpa
Grandpa says he once flew to a far distant star
Where the aliens where large and green
They had to be seen
Both agreed
So they worked hard to fix the flying machine

It burbled and bubbled
And flustered and struggled
But eventually went up in the sky
It flew around and around
But landed with an unfortunate bump on the ground
With a bit of care and lots of elbow grease
Once more they flew into the sky
with grace of a swarm of geese

Of went Mary and Jean who were ever so keen
to explore in that flying machine
First to the moon and then to Mars
Then on to Jupiter, the gas giants
and then to the stars
Out in the galactic back waters they found
Each part of the universe sang with its own special sound
and there they found…

star surfing whales who told rather large tales
and Dark stars with solar quakes
and that the Amdromedians do like to bake
a lot and a lot and a lot of moon mint cake
Oh have another piece for goodness sake!

Once they even found a hole many billions of light years wide
Jean and Mary thought it looked a good place to hide
From the moon mice who squeaked and peeped
And skipped around singing all the time
Which was no crime but got boring and the snoring of Jean…
Was an embrassement
which lead to harassment of the concerned moon mice
which wasn’t nice

so off they went again
this time to explore universe membranes

Plasma seas and oceans of stars
Traffic jams of celestial cars
Candy floss made of vapour from the beginning of all
And trying not to fall down any planets gravity wells

So many stories the girls had to tell
Of adventures in their flying machine
The one that belonged to their Ma
Built by their half alien grandpa
Who were waiting at home
True they were just at the end of the phone
But Mary and Jean were ever so keen to fly home in their flying machine
And tell those tales in person you see
and also have a spot of home cooked tea

Of course once home it was time to begin
to plan the next adventure
Of inter dimensions and vortexes where mentioned

Some adjustments would have to be made to the flying machine
which was fine because Mary and Jean were ever so keen
To explore all they could in Ma’s flying machine
With grandpa and ma they made a pretty good team!