April 15, 2024

Night in the Garden

by Marshall L. Moseley

““Phoenix!” I said. “Mouse isn’t waking up!””

“Mouse?” I gently reached out and tapped him with my paw, but my little gray friend lay inert. Still.

We had been playing in the grass the way we always play. The game – you know it, I’m sure – was cat and mouse. Our respective species had once played it in deadly earnest, but over time, after the garden’s MedNanites gave us minds and we’d become friends, we played it for fun.

I hadn’t shaken him that hard. I’d shaken him harder before, and he’d always lain still for a moment, and then bounded up with a cheery “Good one, Cat!” and we’d go on with our play, or wander down to the stream to sip some water, or over to the food trees for some kibble.

The Phoenix would know what to do. I left my friend lying on the grass and ran out of the meadow and up the short grassy hill to where the giant bird was always perched on a rock at its top.  As I ran I looked up at the skydome, and its plates were no longer a bright sky blue, but darker, like I remembered dusk being before the escape. And there were cracks in them.

I ran up to the Phoenix and stopped. He no longer stared straight ahead, looking sleek and regal, awaiting questions or requests. His rainbow plumage was ruffled and sticking out everywhere, and his head was down.

“Phoenix!” I said. “Mouse isn’t waking up!”

“Fazzit… fa… failure… system,” the once regal bird said in a voice I didn’t recognize. Instead of his gentle baritone, he spoke in a monotone, almost like he wasn’t alive. “Neutron star… gravity well… MedNanites offline… gravity shear imminent…” He lifted his head and looked at me, and for a moment he was back. “I can’t fix it, Cat. I’m so sorry. It’s–” and then his head dropped.

He was gone.

I turned and ran back down the hill. I looked up; the plates were darker now, and there were more cracks. All around me I heard a faint creaking sound.

Mouse was where I’d left him. I looked up at the skydome one last time. Then I laid down and curled myself around him, and as the sky went dark and the wind howled, I mourned my friend.


* * *

About the Author

Marshall L. Moseley has been writing fiction of one kind or another for forty years. His screenplay, WILDCARD, placed in the top three of the third season of Project Greenlight, and he appeared in the show. He subsequently optioned it to Dimension Films, a division of Disney. His stories have appeared in ROAR 6 and Inhuman Acts, and he was nominated for a Cóyotl Award in 2015. He is a member of the Wordos Professional Writers workshop in Eugene, Oregon.


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