Beneath the Bleeding Fruit.
The village stood as it had always stood, crowded by the surrounding trees. They were in fruit now, and it hung heavy upon the branches. The fruit was like bloodied flesh to a casual glance, flesh ragged as if slashed and hacked.
The buildings were in contrast in appearance, but in symbolic essence the same; some burned, the others were piles of rubble. Nothing stood that was not ruined, and everything spoke of destruction.
The ground about the village spoke of the fruit in a deeper hue: for while the buildings were dead and gone, the fruit although blood red, were still living. So also were the lucky in the battle. But not all; like the wounds apparent in the fruit, corpses lay about, bloodied or shattered, still in their death, while some few moved, just as the fruit swayed in the breeze.
But still over this desolation did the sound of battle rage. By sound, not only the clang of metal, the shout of fighters. Screams and roars beyond rational hearing exploded about, coupled by periods of deathly silence.
Faces opened, and tongue like worms hissed. Staffs clanged and staffs shot, and the lone warrior flew under them, landing in the midst of his foes. The heavy longsword in his hands swept in a scything blow; the legs of one foe were crumpled in by the impact, and the creature fell to the ground. The advantage of wound-shock the warrior would have had, however, was lost upon the painless suite of armor, and it responded with a blast from its staff. The warrior deflected it with his kanohi’s power, landing a telekinetic punch to the creature’s face, crushing the kraata within.
It’s not rational. It can die.
Like the fruit, when the faceplate fell open by some chance, the worm was bloodied and red, and the warrior could not help but smile grimly before pivoting to block another staff blow. On and on he fought, tiring every second. Foe after foe fell ,and foe after foe replaced them. His arms tired of his sword, and he wished for a lighter weapon, even though he rationally recognized that a lighter weapon would be useless against the heavy armor the rahkshi wore.
Block staff, counterswing. Knock the other thrust you didn’t see before aside with your mask, that was really all there was to it. Blast a kraata apart with sound waves, smash the pommel of your sword into another’s head, forgetting that they aren’t regular foes. Get send flying from some non-deadly attack, and throw yourself to your feet, fighting with now desperate moves to regain composure and position. That was the essence of such a fight. Blood leaked from wounds, bones ached and must be ignored.
But like the fruit, those wounded could never keep up such a fight, and as the battle progressed, the warrior fought slower and slower. His sword dropped, his guard was open more, and his power waned. Only his kanohi wore on strong, inexhaustible, though his intellect tired of the effort needed to use it.
Explosive blasts wracked the ground about him, what rahkshi power he knew not.
I will not fall, although bleed I may!
The warrior made another slash, this time slicing through the knee of another suite, sending it to the ground, where he thrust through the faceplate, killing the worm within.
A blast hit him straight in the chest, and he was sent flying, and flying, his sword far from his grasp
The warrior hit the ground hard. Armor shattered and bent, blood leaking from wounds uncounted, he resembled greatly the fruits about the village.
I am Zarayna. This is my village. I… Have lost it.
And like the fruit, he was too battered and scarred to think forwards, and his body joined into the desolation.The village stood as it had always stood, crowded by the surrounding trees. They were in fruit now, and it hung heavy upon the branches. The fruit was like bloodied flesh to a casual glance, flesh ragged as if slashed and hacked.
In All Seriousness...
"The theme," he said, to my chagrin,
"Is going to be 'rambutan'".
Regardless to say,
No one was thrilled
They skulked away
The chat had been killed
Bravely and truly, some of them fought
Against the looming writer's block
Others like me, they were caught
And all they could do was walook at the clock
There's not much to lose, not much to gain
Writing, simply, for writing's sake
Except, one thing will drive you insane
And give you a massive, killer headache
Never before has a challenge been
So trying as that of 'Rambutan'.
By By Nate/GSR:
“What,” he asked, “in the name of -"
She stood, the spiny fruit cupped in her hands. “Don't finish that sentence. It’s a rambutan. And if you’re going to be crass about it, which I know you are, you can just go ahead and ask Computer.”
He rolled his eyes. “Computer.”
The rambutan (taxonomic name: Nephelium lappaceum) is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae. The fruit produced by the tree is also known as "rambutan." The name rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambutan, meaning "hairy".
He sighed. “Thank you, Computer. Your ability to recite Wikipedia articles never fails to amaze.” He motioned to her, and she handed the fruit over. He turned it over experimentally. “Let me get this straight: you chose this over, say, apples or bananas?” She nodded. “Care to explain why? It can’t have been cheap to get prototypes for.”
She shrugged. “We each agreed, one thousand creds of personal spending for each of us. This was how I spent part of mine, is all.” He rolled his eyes.
“Thirteen months of non-stop before we hit the next colony, and I pick the girl who plants rambutan.”
Another shrug. “Hey, don’t act like you could afford anyone else. It’s a miracle either of us even managed to get permits to leave the station. If I feel like having rambutan, you can just deal with it.”
He scowled but handed the fruit back. Rule number one you learned before getting a long-travel permit: never rise to your partner’s bait. Too many ships wound up at port with a pair of corpses inside. And in any event, she was right: they’d each agreed to set aside a thousand credits for personal purchases. Nothing in their contract had said what they had to spend it on.
She took it and said smugly, “Guy I got it from’s been working on the prototype for ages now. Back on Earth these things only ripened on the tree. Not these.” She tossed it up and down in her hands. “Plus, he swears there’s practically no difference in taste. You’d think you bought it at a market, or whatever they called it back then.”
He stopped short, a look of utter terror on his face. “Oh my God. “ She looked at him quizzically as he put a hand out to steady himself. “I care so little I think my heart stopped for a second there.” She scowled back but let the comment slide. He wasn’t the only one who’d learned rule number one.
He shook his head and strolled on past to the back of the biotope – a very short walk, given the size of their ship. Tapping the screen on the wall, he pulled up a menu. After a moment’s pause, he turned and looked back at her. “Rambutan stew for dinner? Really?”
She shrugged and started peeling the fruit in her hand. “Either that or reconstituted beef again. Your choice.”
They stared at each other for a moment more, then both returned to their tasks.
Rule number one.
Not What You’d Expect
Tap tap tap, the tune played out into the cold night air, and whirled upon the wind before it was lost to the sound of the city. It was a neat little song—percussion and clever words that were lost on the journey down from the dark window above.
Yellow lights winked in the distant night, and he sighed a steaming breath as he continued on his walk, pulling his coat tighter. He wished he was indoors tonight. Especially tonight. If only it were that simple. Sit indoors and relax, listen to some music like that, drift off. If only…
But no, he would not be relaxing tonight. Tonight was work. Grim work indeed.
His feet crunched in the thin snow that covered the sidewalk. To his left, the glare of streetlamps made little islands of light on the dark street, and icy flakes glittered as they swirled in the cold wind.
He checked his watch casually and glanced up at the buildings that rose on either side. Apartments, leaning in close over the street. Number three-fourteen…three-fifteen...There. He slowed. This was his stop.
He didn’t bother with the front door. It never worked out that way.
Around the back, through the trash-filled alleyway. The fire-escape rose black against the red-brick wall. It reminded him of an insect or some exotic fruit or burr—a cast off husk left clinging to the wall, except this one was made of iron, and its barbs were bolted to the bricks.
He kicked a crate over to the rusted ladder that hung eight feet above the concrete. He was a tall guy, but not that tall. A step up, and then a leap. The cold metal froze his hands as he pulled himself up, rung over rung. His foot met the bottom of the ladder and he was up in a flash, steadying himself on the narrow platform. Fourth floor. Time to be careful.
He reached inside his coat and pulled a pistol from the holster under his arm, checked it for the sixth time that night, put it back. His soles skittered a bit on the icy metal as he mounted the stairs, zig-zagging up the side of the building. He’d done this before. More times than he cared to admit, actually.
Second floor…third floor…he slowed. No creaking, now. No slips or stumbles. He leaned in toward the wall of the building and sidled up the last set of stairs. The window was dark. No curtains though. He couldn’t see what was inside. The snow was pretty thick on the platform. Undisturbed. Good sign. That would’ve been the easy way out.
He tried the sill. It didn’t budge. Quickly, now! Out came the wire, and he slipped it down between the frame and the sliding part of the window. There was the catch— just there. He bent the wire carefully, twisting until the rigid end hooked on the latch-pin. A quiet click made him smile in satisfaction.
He leaned close as the window slid upward. Cold wind rushed in through the opening as he crouched. One leg over the sill, then the other. The wind cut off as the pane slid back into place.
He was in.
The interior of the apartment was very quiet. The carpet was spongy beneath his shoes. He stood up and waited for a moment, listening. No sounds. Nothing stirring. Good.
His hand went into his coat again, and the pistol gleamed dully in the moonlight that filtered in as he moved through the space. It wasn’t his weapon of choice, but it’d do. He was good with most weapons, but tonight, death would be a bullet.
Down the hall. There were doors on either side and one at the end. The first one on the left was a bathroom. The others looked to be bedrooms. Careful now. Not a sound. The door on the right was closed, but the one straight ahead was slightly ajar. Best try that first.
Silent as a shadow, he moved to the door. The gun was out, ready. He put out a hand and nudged the door open. Slowly, slowly. No creaking hinges. Good. The room was dark, a bare wall, a dresser…and then he saw the edge of the bed. He paused, and the air felt tense as he squinted into the darkness. Yes, this was it. Finally, after all this time, he could tie things off neatly. He really hated unfinished business.
He breathed and slipped through the gap. There was the bed, low off the ground. Table beside it, and a bowl of fruit. Nasty looking stuff. The sheets were in a tangle around a single, unmoving form. The sound of heavy breathing filled the small space. He could see the shallow rise and fall of the man’s chest. He was on his back, hands folded over his stomach. Peaceful. That was good. It was better that way.
He was at the bedside. The gun was in his hand. The man did not move. His breathing was steady, undisturbed. He would never have expected...but it was time.
The man’s eyes snapped open.
The morning air was crisp and cool, and there was a sound on the wind. Almost like music. Fresh snow had just fallen, coating the steps of the apartment building and street beyond, covering up the marks of feet and vehicles that had filled the street a few hours before.
“Looks like we’re done here, then.” The door of the building swung shut with a click as the two officers exited. Snow crunched. They paused on the step to compare notes.
“I’d say that ties things up,” Clark said, nodding. “Quite a commotion.”
“Sad, though,” West said, frowning. “The guy sure put up a fight. It happened what, a month ago?”
“Yeah, sounds like it. He’d healed enough to be out of the hospital, at least.” Clark chuckled, “Landlord says he was in ‘Nam.” He leaned against the wall, pulling something from his coat. Bag of fruit.
“Yeah. He was tough, but I guess he couldn’t catch a break.” Clark shook his head, peeling one of his fruits.
“That’s just not fair,” West said. “The guy goes through war, comes home and gets shot by some punk on the street…”
“That’s life.” He chewed.
“Actually, now that you say that, it makes sense now,” West flipped through his papers.
“What? You mean the cause of death?”
“It wasn’t the wound?”
“No. Not this wound, at least. Coroner’s report says it was his heart. Bullet fragment from a previous injury. Must have been from his time in the service.”
“It got him after all this time. Crazy. One bullet.” West’s face was grim.
Clark shrugged, “Either way. It always does. It’s never what you think.”
“I guess. Hey what’s that you’re eating?” West asked. “Looks awful.”
Clark chuckled, “Fruit. It’s good. Gotta peel them. Spiny on the outside, but it’s sweet.
“Not what I’d expect.”
“Never is. You want one?”
Fruit of the Tree
The rambutan tree in the middle of the Forever-Voyager’s East Wing greenhouse was all Elaine Gormoine had now, but she was okay with that.
To think: In all the recesses of the vast worldship, carrying the remainder of humanity within its coruscating silver walls and underneath harsh, fluorescent lighting, only one living thing could listen to her now. The tree surged with energy whenever Elaine leaned her back against it, as if it felt her plight and knew her emotions.
It was the father figure in her life because of how its gnarled old wood reminded her of a father’s stern hands, and how its fruit, so fuzzy-looking, looked like red beards on the ends of the tree’s branches.
It was the mother figure in her life because of how it gently enveloped her in shadow whenever she needed cold, how it lifted its branches when she longed for light, how the very same fruit that Elaine found humorously similar to an old man’s facial hair was so sweet and succulent once its peel was removed.
Sternness and sweetness. Yin and yang. She needed balance in her life, and here it was.
Being an orphan aboard a starship wasn’t fun. When Elaine was seven, she had run from her guardians and managed to evade them till she came to a door that towered before her like a white edifice. She’d pushed through it and taken five — or maybe six, or seven — before she had been lifted into the air by hands that didn’t actually care, only pretended to.
By twelve, during the stage of her youth where she was obsessed with poetry and art, she had asked on a whim to be led back to the greenhouse. Her guardians, probably as eager to escape her as she was to escape them, had agreed. A blissful hour had been spent in that greenhouse, sketching the crops that waved under winds of cold and winds of change, as she had called them in her first poem, which she entitled “Trees and Silver” and adorned with a small illustration of the rambutan tree.
Over the next two years she had visited the tree once a week; her visits gradually grew more frequent as she entered puberty and began attempting to alienate herself from the adults in her life, till she found herself daily sitting beneath the rambutan tree’s comforting branches, her dark bangs covering her brow, and either sketching or writing poems.
By fifteen, she was told she had to find a trade. That meant no more visits to the rambutan tree.
She’d whined, begged, done everything possible to inflect her voice in just the right manner to strike a heartstring somewhere in her guardians’ chests. Maybe she was too old by that time, because they dismissed her complaints blithely and attempted to convince her working was for the best. She had followed them only to avoid further argument.
The next two years were blurred in Elaine’s memory, as though someone had gone back and smudged them with water and vigorous application of cloth. She only remembered the rumors she had heard that the Forever-Voyager’s Leading Council was beginning to abuse its power, that unnecessary restrictions were being instituted, and that her very generation would be the one stuck with the repercussions.
Being the shortsighted teenager most girls were at seventeen, she had dismissed the gossip as just that and continued looking for a like-aged boyfriend among the handsome males of her class. She was in engineering; she’d be one of the most important individuals on the worldship if she graduated with high enough marks.
Enter eighteen-year-old Elaine sobbing at the C on her report card.
No relationships. A forced repeat of engineering academy. At least she had the artificial summer cycle free.
So she went back to the East Wing greenhouse and found the rambutan tree still grew there. She sat underneath its leaves pensively, like she was around a long-absent friend and didn’t know what to say. The tree said nothing, either, just sheltered her as it had when she was oh-so-younger. She visited it every day that summer.
And the next summer. And the next.
And the next after that, when she shared with her rambutan tree her A report card and wrote a short victory poem entitled “Of the Tree and the Girl” and adorned it with a quick pencil-sketch of the tree in its beauty.
And this one, when she, twenty-two years old — still single, still parentless, now with her hair pulled back — decided she was okay with a rambutan tree being her best friend and her parents all in one.
The Devil’s Fruit
“So, are these terms agreeable?”
I kept my host’s stare through my aviator sunglasses as I thought about the question. It was true, it was a good deal, but there was the question of ethics to answer. Dealing with an arms dealer, even if it would be for the “greater good” in the end, it wasn’t exactly something I wanted to do. But orders were orders.
“Come on, Raphael, you must make a decision sometime. It is a good offer,” he said when I still hadn’t answered, his Indian accent thick with every word.
“You know what the alternative is. You either deal with me, or you die.” It was true, I did know. Of course, according to the Powers That Be, this was all part of the plan. He picked a fruit from the bowl in front of him; a red one covered in spikes. He squeezed it until it opened, and using that small hole, pulled apart the rest of the skin until the inside was completely revealed, taking out the white sphere and taking a bite out of it. “Rambutan. Such an amazing fruit, isn’t it? How can something that looks like that, still be good to eat? You may not like what you see when you deal with me, but the outcome is what counts. Don’t make me waste such a valuable asset.” A provider, that’s what I was – or going to be, rather. I had spent the last six months creating a good reputation.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said at last. “Raise the price by another hundred and you have yourself a deal.” He didn’t like it. The fire started to burn in his eyes again – the fury like the one that had overcome him just the day before, when one of his workers had disobeyed his orders. Without hesitating he began to beat the man with his bare fists until his face became a bloodied, scarred mess. But even that wasn’t enough for him. He continued to pound away until the worker’s heart stopped beating.
But he “needed” me. And as soon as he realized that, the fire in his eyes began to die down again. “All right. One hundred more, that’s it. But your service better be impeccable.”
“It will be.” I stood up from my chair, and turned to leave before stopping myself and turning back toward him. “Just make sure you keep your end of the deal, Rambutan.”
“Of course,” he answered, offering his hand.
I walked away.