Writer In Motion Short: 902 words.
You lie among the scraggly brush, your rasping breath loud in your ears. Roars shatter the night, closing in around you. Sandy, barren land stretches between your meager cover and the Drop Site, concealed in the rusting remains of a small ship listing to starboard on a sandbank. Nothing the monsters can understand.
Breaking cover, you lunge for the derelict. The packed sand crumbles beneath your hooves as if plotting with your pursuers to slow you down. You stumble, pattering a staccato beat. The scent of your own fear clogs your flaring nostrils. It’s a wonder the monsters don’t smell it too.
Or maybe they do.
They swarm out from the brush, and a strangled squeal rips from your throat. It seems to drive them ever faster, their huge splayed feet grabbing the sand you struggle on, throwing them forward with ease. The primitive creatures never stop, never need to rest, and their eyesight is better than yours. They’d seen you watching them, and they didn’t take kindly to that.
That moment is frozen in your mind: the flapping hides of the dead creatures they tied around themselves, their swinging limbs, and their eyes gleaming in the dark. Fodder for nightmares, should you be lucky enough to have them later.
You gallop across the sands and through the tide that tugs at your hooves, as if the water too conspires to drag you down. Do the monsters compel all of nature to do their bidding? You shiver, your hide twitching and jumping. It can’t be. Such a thing would be magic, and everyone knows magic is for children. Just silly superstitions. Believing in magic would be as likely as you hunting and killing some poor creature. Ridiculous.
You fling yourself into the derelict. It has no door to slam in the monsters’ faces. You lunge across the small ship to grab the crate the Wolves had sent down for your return, the crate which holds the Matt and makes this rusting boat the Drop Site. It bangs against your knees as you haul it back to the entryway and push it into place. It’s too small to block the opening, but there’s nothing else, only a few planks peeling away from the interior wall. The ship screams, too loud in your sensitive ears, when you pull the planks away and slot them into place. They rattle and shiver when you shove the crate against them. There’s no way they’ll hold.
Hoping you’ve at least bought yourself enough time, you open the crate, scanning the instructions. The Wolves set up the Matter Teleportation Device, but they didn’t tell you how to use it.
This was supposed to be an easy mission. Drop down, catalogue the natives, and Matt up. No one was supposed to get hurt. But the Wolves, likely thinking it a prank, didn’t set the Matt up with a verbal or physical passcode. The crate holds a sensor, along with a hoof-friendly lighter, kindling, and two slabs of raw meat. You recoil, even as you read the Wolves’ instructions: the Matt will initiate automatically when the sensor detects cooking meat.
You stare in horror. Who is this? Surely not another Cow? Could you live with yourself if you cooked another Cow?
Some prank, forcing a vegetarian to cook meat in order to return to the ship. To safety. You curse the Wolves and their set up.
But whoever this is, they are already dead. You dying too will not bring them back. Bile rises, and tears flow from your eyes and down your sensitive muzzle. But you aren’t ready yet to die.
Fumbling, you grab the lighter, drop it, and grab it again. Your hooves tremble as you struggle to work the simple tool.
Something slams against the ship and the planks jump. You lunge to hold them up, muttering prayers under your breath. Of course, there’s nothing in the starry expanse to pray to, but desperation drives out reason.
You are going to give the Wolves an earful if you see them again.
Finally, a flame lights, just as the barricade slams against your back under the weight of the monsters. Screaming in wordless terror, you scramble with your hooves on the slick flooring, but there’s no good footing. Maybe if you had massive flat feet like the monsters do. The lighter drops from your grasp onto the kindling.
The kindling catches, lucky for you.
Hairy arms snake in through the holes in your barricade, scratching at you with blunt nails as the fire flares brighter. Another weight bounces against your back, and roars echo all around the derelict. Fortunately, the metal isn’t rusted all the way through.
Shallow, quick breaths puffing out of your mouth, you drop the meat on the flames and waft the smoke toward the sensors. Your stomach turns, nausea rising. The things you’re willing to do to survive are horrifying. You are disgusting.
As the stench of cooking meat fills the cabin, the monsters outside pause, snuffling around the edges of the planks. And then, they throw themselves like a wave at the barricade. At you.
Your eyes widen and you shriek…
…and disappear, safely Matted up to the ship.
The Wolves consider the mission a success. After all, you survived. Even more, in one single exposure to the concept, you taught the humans how to harness fire.
You taught them to cook their meat.
Writer In Motion is a blog project where everyone gets the same prompt and then creates their own short story (1k or less). You post your process and your rough draft, then edit it and post the second draft. Then we partnered with CPs (critique partners) and shared our drafts, marked them up, sent them back, and recorded our editing process again for the fourth draft. We had a chance to work with an editor for the fourth and final draft (above).
Space Cows 2: Writer In Motion short, 1,000 words
You drop into a marsh. A bellow escapes as you flounder to find footing. Green plants, blue sky—except where thunderclouds are rolling in—and brown dirt surround you. A hill rises from the edge of the marsh, and the clouds above are lit in flashes. You were given a mission: investigate the Beacon and come home. And that’s exactly what you intend to do.
Beside you, your Wolf “partner” struggles, the Matter Transportation Device clamped in his jaws. He goes under, then fights to the surface, ears laid back. Your stomach twists. The Wolves nearly stranded you to be torn apart by monsters, but if he drowns with the Matt, you’ll never get home.
“Climb on my back,” you grumble.
The Wolf’s claws dig into your hide. You try not to flinch. Acting like prey only encourages a Wolf’s cruelty.
The marsh mud sucks at all four hooves as you slog toward the hill and the flashing Beacon. When you finally meet dry land, the Wolf drops to his own paws and shakes himself, and you do likewise. He clutches the Matt in his front paws, his eyes ringed with white. Is he… frightened? No, it must be a trick. After all, he has the Matt. You’re not falling for it.
“Come on, we need to find the Beacon.” You move to pass him.
“We’re stuck here, you stupid Cow.”
You freeze, waiting for the next words to fall from his muzzle, dreading and hating them before they’re even born.
“I hung on to it. But the water… Just look!” He thrusts the Matt in your face. “Do you see any lights?”
No cheerful glow—just a dead metallic box. It’s broken. You stamp the dirt beneath your hooves.
“We can’t get back.” The Wolf’s bitter tones slice at you. “They’re not going to send anyone after us. We had the only working Matt.” He lobs it at you, and you flinch when it hits your sensitive muzzle.
The words dry in your throat. Every Cow knows to stay calm around a Wolf, no matter how much they want to run, to keep their predatory instincts from kicking in. But it’s hard. Once your racing heart and trembling limbs are under control, you pick up the Matt and open the casing. The water has flooded it, shorting the power supply.
“The settlement surely has supplies. Or we can call for help. The Beacon is still out there.” You leave the board exposed and head toward the settlement.
“We’re stuck here!” he shouts, as if you haven’t understood.
You keep a tight lid on the terror. “I’m still going to do my duty. I may be just a stupid Cow, but I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ll find a way home on my own if I have to.”
Or die trying. A Cow on her own is prey waiting to happen. What then of a Cow traveling with a Wolf? The thought makes your cud dry on your tongue. Your instincts scream danger.
The Beacon lights the storm clouds above a settlement on a cliffside, crisp against the tossing ocean. Though rusted by the salt air, the tall metal fence surrounding it glows in the afternoon sun. The gate creaks as a settler opens it, ushering you inside. More fill the space behind him, similar to the monsters from the previous planet. Humanoid. You shiver.
“Thank the Whales, the Wolves are here!” The gatekeeper flaps hairless arms. “And they brought…” He furrows his brow. “…food?”
“Might as well,” the Wolf says with a lolling tongue. “Since I can’t return to my ship.”
The gate clangs shut before you can back away. A snarling wolf is carved on the inside. Dismay slams through you. You are not prey! But the settlers’ eyes face forward, like the Wolf’s. You’re surrounded by predators and predators show no mercy.
“But the Beacon!” you shout, desperate to stall. “You called for help.”
“Yes, we lit it as instructed when the water purifier broke. See?” The person leads you to a large machine—a water desalinator.
The Wolf crowds behind you, flashing teeth. “No need to worry about that now.”
You stamp, whirling to face him. “We came here to fix this.”
“We’ll give you until evening,” the settlers agree.
“I’ll help.” The Wolf gives you a toothy grin. “Since it’s why we’re here.”
Your blood rushes in your ears. You crouch by the machine, pulling off the side panel.
“Oh, too bad,” the Wolf points. The collection basin of the desalinator is rusted through. You have no metal to replace it.
“But the marsh must be fed by a freshwater source, given the smell.” Regardless, there are other ways of getting salt out of water.
This is a trap.
“Good, they can find something to drink to wash you down.” He sniffs at you.
You turn away, trying to still the shivers. Tears well up. You’ll be slaughtered and eaten.
A wire catches your eye. You grab the Matt, shielding it from the Wolf’s view as he pokes around inside the desalinator. Dusk is settling but the sun has dried out the inside. If you can splice in a new power source, you don’t have to be dinner.
“Time’s up. The people are hungry.” The Wolf pats your back.
Using a sharpened rock as a knife, you strip the wires on the Matt and the desalinator. You twist them together to splice them. The Matt lights up.
The Wolf peers over your shoulder. “What are you…
“Not such a stupid Cow.” You jerk the Matt out of his reach. “I’m going home.”
“Let’s go then!” His eyes gleam.
“You were going to let them eat me!”
“Come on, Cow, it was just a joke.” He shrugs with a friendly smile and wagging tail.
You narrow your eyes. “Fine. I have a joke of my own.”
As he opens his mouth, you press the button, Matt’ing safely back up to the ship.