Post a Day has set a flash fiction challenge. Here is my effort. Word limit: 300
“New to this?” Asked the site foreman with a knowing grin, passing me a coffee.
I sipped it and watched the drill descend. It wasn’t quite at the deepest permissible point but it was close.
“You learn not to care about the tree-huggers or their stupid stories.”
Lush forest covered this moon and some trees were so large and ancient that the population had adapted their lifestyle to the environment and become dendrofilous, much to the annoyance of those who wanted to industrialise the place and grab the resources.
I am an Ombudsman posing as a deputy foreman and I had the power to shut down the operation if anything was amiss, so yes I had to care about the “tree-huggers”. The ecology was delicate and other interest groups had to be catered for. There was a lot of bad feeling about the drilling and not just from the locals with their anecdotes of giant subterranean creatures that nobody had yet photographed.
The drill suddenly lurched forward, falling over a hundred metres in three seconds.
“Cavern!” Hollered the foreman and immediately the drilling ceased. “Damn it, there’s no oil. We’ll have to keep going until we find it.” He waved for the drill to carry on and it started up almost immediately.
That was the cue to produce my badge. “This drill will stop now.”
His face dropped but he failed to react to my order. “We can’t!”
“Stop drilling now or your contract is terminated.”
He shoved me against the metal railing and I gave the signal to stop drilling. “There might be important fauna and flora down there; you’re breaking the contract and will be fined.”
When the drill finally ceased, silence lasted only a few seconds. Then, somewhere beneath us I heard what sounded like a roar.
This took me about an hour and it wasn’t easy to create a story with a definite beginning, middle and end in just 300 words. I’ve never meticulously edited anything as much as I did with that and it makes you realise just how easy it is to over-write. I wrote the story, not worrying about length and then edited and edited until I’d shaved it down to 300 or fewer, quibbling over every word.
The word I’d never heard before is, of course, dendrofilous. It means “liking trees so much that you choose to live in them”.
As for the ending, I deliberately chose “roar” because it could be interpreted either way. Large creatures roar and so does fast-moving fluid moving through a vent. Interpret it how you will 😀
I think I could really get into flash fiction and it might be useful training if I can submit a piece for The James White Award in January.