Week Twenty-three Flash Fiction Challenge: Life Ain’t Fair

Insect Face

“There’s not supposed to be life on this planet!” exclaimed Riley.

“Yeah, well, guess what?” replied Hunter. “The suits at NASA got it wrong – this thing proves it.”

The two astronauts stared at the life form clinging to the ship’s external hull. It was about the size of a man’s hand, with eight fur-covered tentacles, four antennae and a disturbingly familiar face.

The face of a woman.

But not just any woman.

“Ed Riley, high time you showed up! I’ve been dealing with the kids all day while you’ve been gallivanting around the planet’s surface, playing follow-the-leader with your buddy!”

The voice of his ex-wife caused Riley to take a step backward. How could this be? Thousands of light years from earth, and he still couldn’t escape the woman’s nagging.

He turned to Hunter. “Did you hear that? It sounds like Lynda… it looks like Lynda!”

It was true – the thing did look like his ex-wife. Except for the tentacles, although when he stopped to think about it, Lynda was good at squeezing the life from him. Even after the divorce.

His father, disappointed, had told him he couldn’t escape his obligations; that marriage was for life.

Yeah? Lynda was one of the reasons Riley had signed up for the Mars mission.

He looked at the Lynda-thing again, but its attention had turned to the paralyzed Hunter.

“Hunter?” Riley’s voice reverberated inside Hunter’s helmet, forcing him to look away from the creature.

“Riley, that thing,” he said, shaken, “its face – it’s Peg! This is crazy! Am I dreaming?”

“Buzzy,” the thing whined, “you never pay any attention to me. You leave me home while you go out with your astronaut pals. What about me? I’ve got needs. What about me, Buzzy?”

“Stop!” cried Hunter. “Please… stop it! You’re the reason I left earth! The never-ending whining – I just can’t take it!”

Riley grabbed Hunter’s shoulder. “Calm down, Hunter. I’m the one who should be going nuts. That thing looks like my wife!”

Hunter looked again at the insect. No, it was Peg’s pouting face staring back at his. Confused, he turned to Riley. “No… can’t you see? It’s Peggy!”

Riley stared at the insect. He saw Lynda, heard Lynda… but Hunter saw Peg.

“This is can’t be,” he whispered.

The thing continued its monologue of complaint.

Suddenly, Hunter’s gloved hand shot forward, splattering the creature.

“There, that’s better,” he said, strangely calm. “I once swore I’d kill her if she didn’t stop whining.”

Riley thought of his father. You can’t escape your obligations, son, marriage is for life.

Feeling liberated, Riley grinned. Guess you were wrong, dad!

Yeah, that’s what he thought – until the next morning when he and Hunter woke to the sight of hundreds of insects, slowly scaling their legs, arms, necks…

Grinning, familiar faces, complaining, hectoring – a crescendo of recrimination.

As the insects consumed him, Riley realized his father had been right.

Marriage is for life – and life ain’t fair.

Author’s Note: This week’s tale is written in response to a challenge to write a 500-words or less story in which ‘the first men to set foot on mars return to their ship only to find a large, strange insect on the door of the ship.’ You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges hosted by Thain in Vain here.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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29 Responses to Week Twenty-three Flash Fiction Challenge: Life Ain’t Fair

  1. alexraphael says:

    Nice. What sci-fi writers do you like?

  2. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Twenty-Three Submissions | Thain in Vain

  3. Oh this made me laugh, Kate!

    How ironic that neither man could escape their nagging exes. The thought of hideous little insects carrying the faces of someone you’re not all that keen on is a terrifying prospect!

    The poor astronauts, I don’t think any of them survived in our offerings to the prompt this week…..

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Heather, glad to know the story made you laugh. I had hoped it would be humorous.

      It’s interesting each astronaut saw only his own wife’s face and heard only his own wife’s voice. Was the ‘face’ really there – or were their guilty minds only seeing it? Perhaps the insect had a unique ability to sense the weaknesses of those who encounter it, and exploit the weaknesses in order to survive. Of course, none of this occurred to me in the writing of the story! (grin) Only later. Besides, there’s not much room for exploration with only 500 words.

      Yeah, those of us who participated in this challenge were cruel to the astronauts – killed them all, we did!

      • I thought it a wonderful twist to have each astronaut see something different in the face of the creature and I like the idea of the insect being able to sense the weaknesses of those who encounter it.

        For a 500 word story, I thought you did an excellent job! ❤

  4. C. E. Coburn says:

    I did not see that coming, well done.

  5. Terrifying and hilarious in equal measure. The mass of insects at the end made my flesh crawl. Brilliantly executed flash fiction. Well done.

  6. Mark Baron says:

    Hahaha, this was awesome. What a fun response to this prompt!

  7. LOL. Great! You have a wonderful way of creating a mood, establishing character, and having a beginning, a middle, and an end. I don’t know what your goals are as a writer, but you should be writing sitcoms.

  8. That certainly is unfair! Going to Mars to escape their wives only to by overcome by insects that imitate them! This was awesome! And very well executed, Kate! TiV

  9. gpeynon says:

    I’m guessing if these guys weren’t ever married, then it would their mothers’ faces?

  10. Julia Lund says:

    This made me laugh! Those poor men; just when they thought they’d escaped!

  11. Crumbs… I feel rather glad that I stayed single. Why are there no stories(yet) about nagging men? Must be some….

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I think women have the upper hand when it comes to nagging. Men have their faults – they are just of a different sort, I think. Here’s a question: were the women really that bad, or did the men ‘see’ their wives’ faces because they felt guilty for their behavior toward their them? I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but this could be a story of guilt and how we can’t escape the consequences for behavior we know is wrong.

  12. mihrank says:

    “It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”

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