This was a short story in response to a challenge from the Blackpool Writers Circle to write about EITHER ‘A Strange Proposal’ OR ‘Waiting for Blastoff”. In no more than 500 words.
I’m not sure I ever saw anything like it before. It was nearly eight feet tall and almost as wide and black. As black as the ace of spades. There was no opening on it at all so I couldn’t see inside.
I walked around it slowly. It didn’t seem to invite contact, not actively pushing me away, but simply not welcoming any intimacy.
It took fifteen or so paces to complete the circumnavigation and I was no wiser. There was nothing to distinguish one side from another. In fact as it was more or less a tapered cylinder I couldn’t even tell one side from the other.
I don’t know where it had come from. It certainly wasn’t there the night before and I hadn’t heard anything happen during the night. Yet here it was, as large as life and twice as… well not ugly perhaps, but homely, certainly that.
Tentatively I reached my left hand out to it. There was no heat coming off it. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I put the flat of my hand on the smooth obsidian surface.
Emboldened by the lack of response, I knocked, quite hard with the knuckles of my right hand, close to where my left hand still rested.
That brought a response.
A voice, almost androgynous in character, although I was later to ascribe a female character to it, spoke to me. “Hello, can I help you?” it said.
Although the voice didn’t seem to be audible, it was more a voice in my head, in my mind almost.
It did make me jump though. I pulled back. Or at least tried to. Both my left hand and the fist of my right hand were still attached to the black shape.
“Hey, let go of me.” I yelled.
“Oh, sorry. Of course.” The voice replied and my hands were immediately released.
“What on earth’s going on?” I said as I took a further step back. “What the hell are you? And what do you want?”
“Nothing much is going on. I’m not sure you have the vocabulary to understand exactly what I am, but in simple terms I’m an explorer, or rather a machine that explores. And to answer your final question, I don’t really want anything, other than to explore and gather knowledge. Will that suffice?”
I supposed that it would have to and said as much.
“So what now? Are you going to go off and explore some more?” A stupid question I know, but in the circumstances the best I could come up with.
“Well, I suppose so. But I could offer you a ride if you like. You might help with the loneliness. Step inside and come with me.” A door opened in front of me and I could see a comfortable looking space inside.
I’m not sure why but I accepted the proposal and here I am now. Waiting for blast off.