Weekly Challenge #382 – Billions

Welcome to the 100 Word Stories podcast at oneadayuntilthedayidie.com. I’m your host, Laurence Simon.

This is Weekly Challenge, where I post a topic and then challenge you to come up with a 100 word story based on that topic.

The topic this week was BILLIONS.

We’ve got stories by:

The next 100 word stories weekly challenge is on the topic of JUST.

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Myst prepares to laser-blast Tinny

Finally, if there are any errors or corrections, please let me know, and I’ll fix them as soon as possible.


TURA

Billions
—-
When I was five, the universe scared me. The big encyclopedia talked about billions of years, billions of billions of miles. When I worked out what a billion was, I was terrified. “But what’s it all for?” I wailed. “Wait till you’re my age,” said my mother.

When I was thirty-three, I asked her again, “So, what’s it all about, remember?” But she just said, “wait till you’re my age”.

She died at seventy-six, and now here I am, seventy-six myself, her age at last. And I still don’t know what it’s all for.

I guess that’s what she meant.

JEFFREY

Cosmos
by Jeffrey Fischer

When the cosmos were formed, gases coalesced to create galaxies, solar systems, planets. Billions and billions of planets. Some of those planets contained bits and pieces of life – life that grew and evolved into sentience.

In the nearly-infinite potential for extraterrestrial life among those untold billions of planets, isn’t it strange – isn’t it just the tiniest bit odd – that the life science fiction shows find tends heavily toward the humanoid? In fact, many alien species are indistinguishable from humans.

Perhaps this just reflects the bias on the part of explorers, recognizing sentient life more often when it looks like us. But a cynic might think this reflects tight budgets and/or a lack of imagination.

Upward Mobility
by Jeffrey Fischer

When he was a child, Barney stole. He stole from his mother’s wallet, he stole money from his brother’s lemonade stand, he stole candy and comic books from the drugstore.

As an adult, Barney had greater ambitions. He stole an identity, took a job as a bond trader, and eventually made it to the top of Goldman Sachs, where he was able to steal millions from unsuspecting investors.

Still, this wasn’t enough for Barney. He parlayed his access to power into a political career. Now he steals billions at a time and is honored for it.

A Well Defined Relationship Part 11

“Third base,” cried the crowd, roars of laughter, applause, up go the
house lights. Banister paused in the lobby for a cigarette. A hand reaches
out to light his Camel. “Rio Bravo, pretty damn good way to get my
attention. Dino Mod gesture towards the main casino. “Sorry Pilgrim I
don’t gamble.” “Neither does Mr Wyn.” Billionaire Barnard Wyn was the
second richest man in Bowsmen a far cry less respectable then Angus, he
was no less influential in matters of practical governance. There were a
billion good reasons to make for the stage, and one to continue forward.

CLIFF

The Galactic Empire is a very large place. Three hundred billion stars, give or take. Granted, only one percent of those stars have worlds that support life, but that’s still three billion star systems. Billions of worlds each home to billions of sentient beings. That’s a lot of people when you start doing the math. Now, taking all that into account, what do you suppose the odds are that of all the people who walk into all the bars on all the worlds, the one who walked in here tonight would be my ex-wife? That’s just how my luck runs.

Legend tells of a man who offended the gods so deeply that they decided to destroy the world. One goddess felt sorry for mankind and pled their case. She was somewhat successful. The destruction would be postponed. The man was ordered to count the grains of sand on every beach in the world. When he was finished, so was the world. That’s why, whenever see an old man on the beach who looks like he’s concentrating very hard on the sand, I start shouting random numbers at him until he gets frustrated and goes away. You know, just in case.

RICHARD

#1 – Rethink

Gingerly, George clambered towards the rear doors and peered through – the container appeared to be on the back of a truck, speeding down an otherwise empty road.

Nothing made sense: for the first time since waking in hospital, George found himself questioning the assumptions he’d made. Of the billions of possibilities, killer plants, zombies and alien invasions now seemed the least likely scenarios.

That was probably a good thing, but the more likely possibilities were equally worrying – was he in the midst of a civil war? Had somebody dropped the bomb?

All he could do now, was wait and see.

#2 – Invasion

They came, and there was nothing we could do to stop them.

Not in their hundreds, not in their thousands, not even in their millions… when they came, it was a horde so vast that no human being could grasp their sheer numbers.

When they came, it was in their billions

An army blotting out the light of the sun; destroying everything in its path and leaving nothing in its wake.

We were defenceless and, although we had the power to simply crush their tiny bodies in our hands – size isn’t everything – it’s numbers that count.

And the locusts won.

#3 – Billions

How is it possible that out of all the billions of galaxies, and the infinite billions of stars and their planets that this could happen?

How is it possible that out of the billions of people on this planet and the countless billions of possible places they could choose to be, that this should occur?

What are the odds that two people should run into each other in the same bar, at the same time, just as we did.

And what are the chances, I would run into my boss on the day I should have been working from home?

SERENDIPITY

The project had taken many years, and cost billions in public money, but at last it was finally complete!

The SS Bubonic sat majestically in dry dock, awaiting the moment of launch – the greatest marine vessel ever to be constructed. Forty-Two decks, gleaming white in the sun – she was larger than a small city and a supremely breathtaking sight.

The champagne crashed against her bow, and to massive applause she slid majestically into the sea… then sank, almost instantly, without a trace.

At the public enquiry, the architect’s defence was simple:

“Nobody told us that she had to float!”

JUSTIN

What do you do after raiding the dungeon and the prized artifact is in your hands, and your enemies close behind?

You could take your airship to fly away, but it’s not that great of an airship, and your enemies might catch up.

What you do is take the astral diamond you pulled out of a treasure chest and give it to the airship parking attendant so you can “accidentally” take the bigger, better airship of your enemies! That attendant won’t stick around and hope for grace from the victims. He’ll be long gone, billions of copper to his name.

MUNSI

Infinity

By Christopher Munroe

In a nearly infinite universe, there are billions upon billions of stars, surrounded by potentially trillions of planets.

Perhaps some of those planets do contain life. In fact, the law of averages implies that some must.

And yet, only one star in one small corner of the universe, and one planet circling it, with seven billion people inhabiting it, produced you.

Seven billion people on one of trillions of planets circling billions of stars, and yet…

There’s only

One

You

Nonetheless, don’t let that trick you into thinking you matter. Because in a nearly infinite universe, trust me, you don’t.

DANNY

“How much is it going to cost to run on the next Republican ticket for U.S. Senate?” the spineless wretch of a Christian white conservative male meekly asked. “Oh, it will cost billions, plus your soul, all deposited to me directly in the bank of China,” the Devil replied, not kidding. The Devil owned China, and all of the souls of the Billions of people there. Flash forward to Dr. Evil in the latest abomination of what is to be called the 4th Austin Powers movie, Dr. Evil demands one billion dollars. Chump change in the 2013 market, ask for more.

ZACK

She took a trip to the fair in Sacramento.

She bought the price bull.

She loves him more than the rest of her herd.

Don’t tease him or you will get trampled.

Get out of the way it’s Kathy’s Kalifornia Kow.

It’s Kathy’s Kalifornia Kow.

Get out of the way it’s Kathy’s Kalifornia Kow.

It’s Kathy’s Kalifornia Kow

She misses the milkfat from the Jerseys she had as a child.

Now she has a billion dollar ranch of holsteins

with a million dollar bull that’s not polled

Get out of the way it’s Kathy’s Kalifornia Kow

it’s Kathys Kalifornia Kow

LIZZIE

Billions was a great name for a book, he thought. It was easy to say and easy to remember. He was writing about the crisis, so it seemed appropriate. When he sat before the blank screen, the cursor blatantly mocking him, he felt the weight of not knowing where to start. Define billions, he thought, that should work… not. Billions of seconds ticked away, increasing his frustration. So, he took up drinking instead of writing. One day, being quite drunk, he hastily crossed the busy street. That’s when billions of atoms hit him. He never even saw the truck coming.

JUNE

The sorrows are draining from the sky. Billions of raindrops pelting the ground, each a tear of God’s, prayers unanswered from those who call to him every day. He cannot hold them all, and so the rain comes, pounding the earth, pounding our souls, and we are lost.

The pain does not end.

Anger, there is much anger at God. There are too many of us, his children, and though he loves us, there is not enough time, he did not give himself or his son enough time, and so we are lost.

And the pain does not end.

STEVEN

You are not one.

Subprocesses in your brain filter, process, and react before your conscious mind even perceives a thing.

The billions of germs in your body mass more than “you”. Everything from the bit of bacteria digesting your lunch to the rabies virus walking its way up the nerves to your brain.

Each, in turn, is made of molecules. Each molecule is a loose cloud of atoms. Each atom a cloud of potential and energy, more empty space.

You are mostly germs. They are mostly empty space.

No wonder you are lonely.

You are not one. You are nothing.

SINGH

The Lakshmi Plot

1

Outside the wind was banging, but Meera Devi kept washing the rice. She chanted Ram-Ram with each turn of her hand.

“Come,” she said to Devika, her daughter-in-law. “Bring Priya.” The elder woman reinforced what should be done to ensure abundance. Devika turned the rice also, and then pressed the baby brown hand into the cloudy water. Priya burst into tears.

Meera reached in, enclosing daughter and grand-daughters’ fingers. It felt comforting — three generations were united through the rice ritual rinsing away excess starch, leaving pure grains in the pot while praying to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth.

2

Bhim Krishna Das returned from the padi fields before sunrise, swiping the backside of the buffalo with his stick. Wearing only his wrap-around lungi knotted at the stomach he entered his enclosure, tying up the beast, then cut fresh grass into chewable chaff with the hand grinder. Bhim fed his animals, then crossed the compound. He found his jute-string charpoi, positioned it in the shade and lay down. This was his routine. Although they subsisted on only 2 acres of land, he never thought of himself as poor and since planting the new seed, yields had been very good.

3

Bhim was both sad and relieved his father had passed away three years ago. Now he had a free hand. Instead of replanting the seeds from the harvest, Bhim Das gladly used the seed companies’ higher yield variety. It was definitely superior and the money it generated did allow him to re-purchase fresh seed stock along with the pre-requisite pellets of urea each season. He even dreamed of one day owning a tractor and hiring himself out to other farmers to increase his income. Meanwhile, Devika came with a glass of sweet milky chai, the baby balanced on her hip.

4

She left, but soon returned with a stainless steel thali, piled high with rice along with a matching dish of gruel-yellow lentil dhal. In another metal dish was a cut red onion and a long green chili. Bhim Krishna Das sat cross-legged on his charpoi, poured the dhal over the rice and ate, occasionally licking the run-off from the side of his fist. He ate to the very last grain, one of billions from similar harvests along the delta where he and his community lived. Laying down, he said Ram-Ram a few times before falling asleep exhausted.

5

Bhim Krishna Das had inherited debts from his father. With a growing family there were more expenses also. To raise cash his only recourse was to regularly borrow against the coming harvest. The grain merchant would advance cash on interest, providing seed and fertilisers. During past decades the subsistence style of bio-diverse farming has shifted to monoculture cash-cropping. The grain merchant ultimately acted as a conduit for the big seed and fertiliser companies and the Government fixed-price buying system. Like all small farmers Bhim Krishna Das’s agricultural future was determined by outside forces, not to mention the weather.

6

Bapuji, his father Raj Das, like generations before him had propagated local strains of rice, millet, squash, corn and lentils. Agricultural pundits once claimed India produced 100,000 rice varieties alone, not to mention other produce; but since the 1960s, Bapu too had become one of millions cranking the new wheel of the Green Revolution to fulfill the government policy of national self-sufficiency. Despite the propaganda, Bapu resisted the one-season one-crop philosophy at heart. Traditional mixed farming methods spread the risks, although yields were less and in spite of the vagaries of the weather, rural life had seemed simpler.

7

Before too, neighbours bartered and cooperated to complement their harvests. For example, the old man had long ago let a neighbour keep his bee boxes in the mango grove for a portion of the honey. Or they shared tools, and even gave a hand with each other’s work when required. Above all, they took pride in the knowledge of breeding and hybridising seed stock which is the farmer’s art. His small holding had once rioted with variety and colour and there was the real satisfaction of living from one’s own rice, milk and produce. But mono-cropping had changed all that.

8

On the other hand, cash crops put money in the palm, promising of an affluent life. And the extra rupees allowed Bhim and other sons of the district to go to the newly white-washed government school. Thus, he thought himself the educated one in the family. He looked down upon his old-fashioned father. Young Das also kept up with the latest seeds and fertilisers, chatting with the peons at the Farmer’s Cooperative in nearby Sitapur, and as a badge of learning Bhim Das read the newspaper to the women in the house on his return from Market Day.

9

Thus, the young man worked hard. He bought the merchant’s seedling shoots and planted them in muddy rows. He channelled the irrigation flow, sometimes getting up in the middle of night whenever electricity was available to pump water. Although the delta silt was rich, rain was needed in the right proportion at the right time to produce premium grain. Tending wet shoots calf-high in slush, guarding against pests, birds and diseases was the farmer’s lot, and deep down he still knew his old irritating Bapu was right who regularly intoned: “Nature laughs at him who claims to own the land.”

10

There was a corner of the far field beside the old mango grove that had long been known in the family as Lakshmi’s Plot. Bhim’s ancestors had created a grotto from stones and placed a murti, a statue of the wealth goddess within. The spindly rice stalks that grew in that nook were tough, although meagre in yield.

“Do whatever you like when I die, but keep Lakshmi’s Plot. This is God’s bank account. Respect the Devi and she will bless you, Son.”

Bhim Krishna Das promised reluctantly. “Alright, Bapu.” He would much sooner have seeded the new genetically-modified grain.

11

The fickle mind of Nature was most evident through the monsoon’s coming — at first it was joyful relief after each killing summer. Clouds become drums. Then the slow tinkle of musical drops increases to a deluge blessing the rice fields. It fills cooking pots and old ghee tins used to catch leaks in the thatch roof, stuffed with polythene bags between the bamboo rafters. For hours, the steady ping-ping hit the meniscus of over-brimming containers. With one ear tuned to the sleeping infant, Devika was first to feel the wetness seeping up through her mattress. She raised the alarm.

TURA

Where are the aliens?

We know ways to send spaceships to the stars, and any rocky planet provides material to make more spaceships. We could colonise the whole galaxy at near light speed. It would only take a few hundred thousand years.

That’s an eyeblink on the cosmic timescale. The galaxy should be crawling with weird creatures already. So where are they?

I reckon nobody cares about hick planets like the Earth. All the action’s in the crowded centre of the galaxy. Billions of planets, and billions of people on every one, filled with stories that we will never know.

NORVAL JOE

“Here you go, Harry. Read this and see what you think,” the scientist said, handing him a long printout. “What’s this, Franz? The readout from the plasmi-quark microscope?” “You guessed it, Buddy. Look closely at the data on page four.” “There are billions of them, and on a spinning spherical mass. Did you note the angle of the mass’s axis?” “I did, Harry. And I measured the distance to the energy source it orbits.” Harry dropped into a chair, burying his face in his hands. “By searching for the smallest subatomic particle, we’ve peeked through a hole and found ourselves.”

PLANET Z

Ted was good with numbers.

But that’s all that was good about him, and for that, he was damned to Hell.

The Devil made him a deal: “You count to a billion out loud without a mistake, and I let you go.”

So, Ted tried. But no matter how close he got to a billion, something would go wrong.

Until, finally… he got to a billion.

The Devil is a man of his word, and he let Ted go.

However, Heaven wasn’t about to let an asshole sinner like Ted in.

So, he waited outside the gates, just counting souls.

2 thoughts on “Weekly Challenge #382 – Billions”

  1. I got a good chuckle out of Cliff’s second story.

    And leaving dog [stuff] in a laundry room is disgusting beyond belief.

  2. Thanks, Rhianon. I haven’t actually listened to this weekly challenge yet. I’ve been busy listening to Broken Escalators by Chris Munroe. Have you all heard this story? It’s wonderful. You should check it out on Podiobooks.

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