I'm back in the Icarus Universe this week!
I don't really want to say exactly when this story is set because it might spoil it for those of you who've been reading the flash fictions as they come out. I will say it's set a few hours to maybe a day after one of the other, earlier stories. If you think you know which one, comment down below, and I'll let you know if you got it.
That said, you don't have to know anything about the Icarus Universe at all to understand the story.
“Was it a bad day, or was it a bad five minutes you milked all day?” Amusement lilted in Ihsan’s voice and tugged at the corners of her lips.
Joseph’s frown deepened, and he slouched farther on the stool where he’d slumped after arriving home from a trying day in the lab. “Well, what would you call having two years of work come to nothing?” he grumbled.
Ihsan chuckled. “A disappointing but still normal day in the life of a scientist,” she said. Setting her spoon down, Ihsan covered the steaming pot and stepped back from the stove. “Failure is only failure if you quit instead of learning from it,” she said while making the sign for quotes in the air. “One of the pearls of wisdom you imparted to our daughter, I believe. Is it not?”
Wincing at having his words thrown back at him, Joseph shook his head. “Well, when you put it that way,” he drawled as a chagrined smile softened his expression. “Maybe it wasn’t as bad of a day as I was thinking.”
Ihsan responded with a smile of her own. It lit her whole face, and even after a decade by her side, his heart skipped a beat to witness the beauty before him. She walked across the kitchen and took his face in her hands as she leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Joseph leaned into her touch as her thumb rasped over three days worth of stubble along his jaw.
“That’s more like it,” she murmured with a smile, pressing their foreheads together. “I always want to see you happy.”
Joseph covered her hand with his own and turned to press a kiss to her palm as she stood. “And I you.”
The clock chimed the hour, and Ihsan startled. Her eyes darted to check the time, and she shook her head with a quiet chuckle.
“The evening’s flying by,” she said as her attention returned to Joseph. “Why don’t you watch the newscast while I get Pyrrha her bath, and you can fill me in on the highlights during dinner?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Ihsan gave his shoulder a light squeeze as she brushed past him on her way into the living room. He watched her turn the corner as he pushed away from the counter. His daughter’s high, clear voice answered her mother’s call, and the sound brought a grin to his face.
Ihsan was right. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad day after all. Who knew what they’d find when the data was reviewed? Maybe today’s failure would shake loose a new idea that would perfect the compound.
Joseph nudged the stool he’d been sitting on back under the counter with a foot before making his way into the living room. He clicked on the television as he sank into the plush sofa they’d splurged on when they moved to Delphinius.
“The trade frigate Proteus surfaced for a routine stop in Boston, Massachusetts this afternoon to find the city in ruins,” said the anchor. Images of ravaged buildings crumbled, some still smoking. In their shadow, the chaos of emergency crews and civilians alike digging through rubble and working to aid the injured reigned.
Joseph’s heart pounded in his ears so loud he could barely understand the report. The words epidemic, mortality rate, bombs, and retaliation stood out amidst what he made out. His breathing became ragged, and tears stung his eyes as he watched the nightmare that’d haunted his dreams for years beginning again. Grasping the skin of his forearm between his index and thumb, Joseph squeezed and twisted hard, gritting his teeth as burning pain followed the action.
He wasn’t dreaming now. This was real, not just some imagined day far off or the fevered nightmares of a man called paranoid.
Each story in this series is 700 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first prompt like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me" and "Culture Shock." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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