I made my first attempt at flash fiction today, and the result combines aliens and wine. (Would you believe I wrote it completely sober?) This one might require some explanation….
With the manuscript of Syzygy Pt IV: Escape Velocity resting, I have some rare time to pursue other writing projects. So I browsed the internet for short story competitions and happened upon an irresistibly unusual one from Wine Tourism Spain, a travel agency specializing in food and wine tours. The prompt? Extraterrestrials arrive in Spain, where wine influences their perception of Earth. It sounded like something I, a lover of science fiction and red wine, might dream up while slurping cabernt over a favorite space opera novel. I couldn’t resist.
The word count, however, proved challenging. I struggle to write 5,000-word short stories, so the prospect of 500-word fiction terrified me more than any vicious alien invader. But I enjoyed the exercise much more than I expected. The result is a little goofy–a travel writer’s spin on classic alien invasion tropes–but it encouraged me to approach storytelling in an unconventional way.
Unlike most short story contests, this one encouraged me to share my submission via blog, so I’m pleased to present my quirky little cocktail of aliens, anthropology, and alcohol. Enjoy, and feel free to pour out feedback in the comments. Salud!
by J.K Ullrich
We come to drink Earth’s blood, they roar inside my skull. They speak no words aloud, but mental transmission makes their demand even more chilling. Figures from a drunken dream surround me, their spacecraft smoking in the remains of my vegetable garden. Panic blazes through my body. Then habit takes command—they are visitors, after all.
“You’ve come to the right place,” I say, forcing a smile and hoping the expression has friendly connotations on their world. “Follow me.”
I lead them past the scorched crater where my peppers used to grow, over the hill to my family’s vineyards. Verdant rows stretch to the edge of the blue summer sky.
“These are our veins,” I tell the aliens, coiling a vine around my finger. “We’ve grown grapes in this part of Spain for millennia. These roots are our roots.” I scoop up a warm handful of soil and cradle the land against my skin.
One of the creatures tentatively strokes a leaf, so I show them how to pick grapes. Their chitinous appendages struggle at first, but soon heavy bunches dangle from their grasp like ripe globes.
Back in the main building, I haul out the massive tub we keep as a novelty for tourists.
“Do you want to crush Earth beneath your conquering tread?” I ask, suppressing a grin. Approval erupts in my cranium. While the aliens stomp, I slice sweet Valencia oranges and open a bottle of red. The cork’s pop draws suspicious glares.
What is that?
Mixing fruit and wine in a pitcher with cinnamon, I pour a cup for each member of my unlikely tour group. I raise one myself with a prayer that alcohol won’t have any ill effects on extraterrestrial physiology.
“Sangria—blood,” I declare.
They sniff without noses and sip without tongues. Wonder dances in their multi-faceted eyes. How can this be the blood of Earth?
In answer, we walk to town. Faint guitar strains weave through the breeze. My companions activate holographic disguises that reflect their surroundings, making them invisible if no one looks too closely. And no one does: locals and travelers alike bask oblivious among friends, family, and food. Rich cooking aromas spice the evening air. Laughter and the clink of a toast echo off medieval stone walls. Molten sunset flares through the glasses: tempranillo and albariño turned to ruby and citrine, Spain’s liquid gems.
“Wine is the blood all Earth’s people share,” I explained. “It accompanies our celebrations and our sorrows. Music and poetry flow from its vintages. It can transform an ordinary evening into a cherished memory.”
The aliens study the refracted light, enthralled. Purple juice stains their limbs and moths flicker around the sticky patches on their exoskeletons. Their hostility—or perhaps my fear—dissolves.
Earth’s blood holds great power, they beam to me.
This time my smile feels genuine. “Yes. It can even turn strangers into new friends.”