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A Recent Future

by ThePenultimateGinger

im a lesbian who is tired of seeing no gay women in books. especially sci fi. here is my retaliation

Olivia's head throbbed like a bass drum. She opened her eyes, trying to filter out the bright light that pummeled against her eyelids. Her first thought was, "did it work?." Her second was "Pain." Her third was -- as she noted the spinning eye the size of a well-fed basketball suspended in the air -- "It might've worked." What might have worked was still a fuzzy concept. Olivia closed her eyes, sat up, and steeled herself for whatever would come next. 

"Are you in need of assistance?" the floating orb inquired. Upon further inspection, the floating eye was not just a floating eye, but a floating eye hovering a few inches above an almost insultingly well-dressed man, right where his head wasn't. His head was not there, as he did not have a head, nor a neck, but compensated with the large wings sprouting from his shoulder blades. The man extended a pristine gloved hand.

"Are you in need of assistance," he repeated, more clipped this time. Olivia felt that if the eye would roll if it could. She rose to her feet on her own. "I'm fine. Thank you." She brushed some strange red dust off her sweater.

"I was not inquiring upon your health." The man's wings flicked. Olivia backed up several inches but decided not to question the man's rudeness. 

"What-" she started, but trailed off, not wanting to be rude. First impressions matter, after all. "Who are you?" 

The man drew himself up to his full height, which Olivia estimated to be at least 6'9.

"I," the man said, or at least Olivia thought he said, how he could talk without a mouth was unclear, "am the King of this realm." His words were tinged with a strange accent.

"Oh." She wondered why she was not screaming and running in circles at this point. She put it down to shock.

"Yes." The man, or the King, as we may call him now, did not elaborate further. "You should meet my wife."

"Oh," Olivia said again. Things were moving rather fast. The King gripped her arm and began to stride toward what appeared to be a large hill silhouetted against the horizon. The King made no effort to talk as they walked. Olivia tried to take in her surroundings. The land stretched out in all directions, rusty soil broken only by waxy shrubbish plants. It might've been the American South-West, except there were no roads. The sky soared above, more polished than the sky on Earth, and navy blue. Olivia wondered how she knew it was not Earth, but it might have had something to do with the two suns hanging low in the East. Gradually, the land sloped upward, and the shrubs grew into slender trees with broad leaves.

The man did not change his pace or his tight grip on her bicep. Olivia marveled at his alien anatomy. Her wife-she felt a pang of anxiety deep in her ribs-would have been chattering away in her ear, this-and-that about evolution, pitting an alien ecosystem against Earth's, contemplating other species that could arise from the same conditions. Being a biologist did that to people. Being a biologist is what got her sick, Olivia thought with a bolt of anger and regret. She wasn't sure what her anger was directed at, but she had a horrible sinking sensation that it was herself. She hoped it wasn't towards her wife. Elina always did what she loved, and what she loved was saving others, even if it put herself at risk. Olivia couldn't stand that sometimes.

The man suddenly stopped, dragging Olivia back to the present. They had reached a tall structure at the top of the hill, constructed of the same reddish material that covered the landscape. It soared into the air, punctured by long windows at intervals. The windows were filled in with blue glass, and they glinted serenely in the half-light. The King's eye whirred upward. Olivia wondered how his eye could move, seeing as it was not attached to his body in any way. He let go of her arm and stepped forward, raising his arm. The man contorted his hand in a bizarre pattern, then stepped back. A solid block of the tower's material shifted aside, grating against the outer wall. Floating orbs of light illuminated a wide spiral staircase. The man gestured to the gap.

"After you."

Olivia stepped inside. The place smelt of wet stone, though it was warm and dry. She wondered why she was trusting this strange being, though it wasn't like there was any other option. She began to climb the staircase. The man followed on foot but tilted his wings upward like he was accustomed to flying over it. Olivia ran her hand across the wall. It was made of curved bricks, and the closer she looked, she realised that the walls were not wholly red, but engraved with white symbols and pictographs. They looked vaguely ancient Egyptian. They looked extremely old.

"What are these?" She tapped the wall.

The man shrugged. Oliva snorted. "You've got to know. You live here, right?"

The eye bobbed. "With my wife."

"So, what are they?"

The King drew his wings closer to himself like he was cold. He said something that Olivia could not understand.


He repeated it. "That is what they are. They have been here as long as we have been. Probably longer. They'll be here after we have gone."

"And how long have you been here?"

If the eye could have squinted thoughtfully, it would have then. "I don't know. That is a question for my wife." He paused at the top of the stairs. "We are here now." He contorted his hand in front of the wall, though if it was the same movement as before, Olivia could not tell. The wall slid open like before, and Olivia could guess that they had reached the top of the tower. The ceiling swelled like the sky above them, a blue glass dome with the orbs of light hovering in it like suns. At the opposite end of the room, a woman stood, facing away from them, towards the window. She turned. Olivia gasped. She noted, feeling faint, that "woman" was not a useful term for what stood before her. The figure was clothed, neck to floor, in a dark dress. Olivia also noted that what she had classified as "dark" on Earth did not hold up to this place's standards. The cloth enveloping the creature was Dark, blacker than night, blacker than the back of your eyelids when you close them in an unlit closet, and then not know if your eyes are truly closed or not. The Darkness in front of her made Olivia dizzy. The garment contrasted spectacularly against the woman's bleached-white skin, which was perfectly smooth, apart from the eyes covering almost every visible inch of it.

"Agh. Not another one." The woman's, or, Olivia supposed, the Queen's, voice was silken and tinged with the same unrecognizable accent as the King's. Like his, where she could have spoken from was a mystery. The King, now standing beside the Queen, made a huffing sound. Olivia couldn't remember him crossing the few paces to her side. 

"What else was I supposed to do? Just leave it?"

"It's going to die. The last one wasn't fit for this environment either. Look at it, it's wilting already!" The strange woman gestured with an elegant pale hand at Olivia, who vaguely considered collapsing. 

"Oh? Would you rather it die out there? Alone?" the King's tone wavered. 

"I'd rather have it suffocate, combust, drown, whatever it's going to do, out of my sight! And not make a mess in here, of course. We're low on servants, as you well know."

"Hey," Olivia protested weakly. The Queen, being unnaturally tall, peered down at her with several eyes. 

"Oh. Fantastic. Reginald," the Queen's eyes turned on the King, "It can talk. Why did you bring it in here when it can talk? Now we are going to get attached to it." Olivia faintly considered another protest, perhaps along the lines of, "what the fuck," or more eloquently, "would you be so kind as to provide me with sustenance, lodging, and information as to where I am, and while we are at it, who are you?" but barely managed a uninspired grunt before sliding to the ground. The cobblestones were cool beneath her still throbbing head, and she promptly succumbed to the pulsating blackness tunneling her vision.  

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Points: 381
Reviews: 2

Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:22 am
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lamorte13 wrote a review...

1. It;s so hard to find gay stuff on this website so this immediately made my gay heart go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. I really liked this story. It reminded me of Annihilation and Night Vale, with the descriptions of the King and the natural landscape. You managed to make it seem both familiar and alien in equal measures, and that's such a hard thing to do in science fiction because sci-fi writers tend to either go for entirely alien and freaky landscapes, or basically just earth 2.0. Your descriptions were lively without being overbearing, and I kinda wanna see what this is
3. The only drawbacks I think are the opening of the story, and I agree with previous reviews that say you should probably work on that and working on making it feel stronger and more engaging. And you have a habit of not giving new speakers new paragraphs.

In short, this was a fantastic short story and even with minimal context, it was thoroughly enjoyable and I would love to see a sequel!

askHfjKkasK thanks for comparing it to WtNV (my favourite podcast) and annihilation (which was SO gOOD I should reread it) and yes causally making my stories Gay is my constant pastime!! Thanks for reminding me that this existed I think I should work on it some more oOp-

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742 Reviews

Points: 28110
Reviews: 742

Sun May 26, 2019 11:09 pm
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ShadowVyper wrote a review...

Hey ThePenultimateGinger,

Shady here to give you a review this fine review day, courtesy of the Well Read team ;) My style tends to be specific things I notice as I'm reading followed by a general overview of what I think about the piece. Let's get started...

Her first thought was, "did it work?." Her second was, "Pain."

I think you can easily make this bit a lot stronger than what it currently is. In general, you can indicate thoughts by having them italicized. And so if you just have the thoughts in order rather than explaining they're her first, second, third thoughts etc. then you can lean more towards showing rather than telling, like you have now. Besides, the way you have it written, it sounds like her second thought was literally thinking the word "pain" when I'm assuming you mean that she just noticed her pain.

So having something more like:

Did it work? she wondered, squinting against the bright light that assaulted her eyelids the instant she awoke. She wasn't even sure what it was that she was hoping would work; the pain was making it so very hard to think. Her head, her chest, her limbs -- they all throbbed as blood pounded through her weary body.

You see the difference? Obviously what I wrote is just a quick example and you'll need to think through your own edits yourself -- but the example I just gave you can see her thoughts, as you work in how she's trying to process the world around her. It kind of gives a bit of insight into her current state as well as giving hints towards the plot and lets the readers try to figure it out on their own, which makes for a more engaging read.

"Are you in need of assistance," he repeated, more clipped this time. Olivia felt that if the eye would roll if it could. She rose to her feet on her own. "I'm fine. Thank you."

Each new speaker should have their own paragraph. It makes it easier to follow along with who is doing and saying what if you separate speakers into their own paragraphs. I would personally split this paragraph at "Olivia" so that you have her motions and dialogue in their own paragraph separated from the man's.

The man, or the King, as we may call him now, did not elaborate further.

Be careful not to break the illusion of your story. When we're reading we don't want to consciously remember that we're reading -- a truly good story will make us so immersed in it that we are so enamored by the characters and the setting and the plot that we feel like we're in the story, not merely detached from it and reading.

But when you insert things like the "as we may call him now" it breaks that illusion of the novel, it rips the reader out of the story and blatantly reminds us that we are not in fact a part of this story and are merely reading it. Because of that, I'd recommend addressing the reader directly as little as possible.

You could have the part being "The man, or king, Olivia supposed, did not elaborate further."

Or even just "The king did not elaborate further" because it's really clear to the reader that the man is the king and so therefore just switching over to calling him the king without drawing attention to that change would be fine. I think that's the solution I would actually recommend here -- but if you do want to make a big deal about switching the dialogue tag then make it be about Olivia making that mental change, not a direct addressing of the readers.

~ ~ ~


Overall, this was a start to a nice little story! I like the cliffhanger that you left of on -- it makes us wonder what's going on with the wife. Does Olivia recognize her? Is it Olivia's wife?! So many potential plot points you could go with here, if you ever decide to extend this story. I think you've got a solid start to work with, so great job there.

One thing I would caution you about overall is making the interaction with the king be believable. Or at least have an alternate explanation for why the king is not acting like a king, which you delve into. For example, a king isn't likely to physically touch a lowly peasant, and he's definitely not likely to be all polite with an "after you" sort of attitude, and he for sure would not be letting her be so rude as to argue with him at that last part. Like, there's a certain expectation when you're dealing with kings, and there's consequences if you don't measure up to those expectations, and she's getting away with disrespecting him a lot.

That's all I've got for you!

Keep writing!

~Shady 8)

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Points: 269
Reviews: 3

Wed May 22, 2019 7:56 pm
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emefalarbi3031 wrote a review...

Okay! Emefa is here to give a review. Your story is very captivating and it can keep one from reading from beginning to the end, actually the suspense never ends. I like the way you took your time to describe everything, it gave me a picture of what you were talking about. Your ending has left me upset because I really don't know who to think the King's wife is, that's a good thing, intense suspense! Thank you for a great story, keep it up!

Thanks for the review!

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You're welcome

A classic is a book which people praise and don't read.
— Mark Twain