Short fiction

Stephen Ashworth, Oxford, UK

Haafway Dhär! (2014) (in the Astronist script):

1. Dhə worning

“Fyv!”, chantid ə thauzənd voisiz in jünisən. “Four! Three! Tuw! Wun!! Jääh-ääh-ääh!!!”

Fyərwurks explödid intü dhə haaf-lyt, sprinkling sparkling shauərz ov red, göld and green brilïəns övər dhë upturnd fäsiz, tuching of ansəring reflekshənz in dhə voultid sieling fortie mëtərz övərhed, dhə glas-fruntid shops and ofisiz, dhə täpərd latis skulptjər at wun end ov dhə skwär, dhə ghyənt vidëö skreen at dhë udhər. Ə frenzie ov cheering, klaping, woops ov jhoy. Əbuv dhair hedz bläzd aut tuw wurdz in letərz ov fyər:


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Note: published in print as “Halfway There!”, novelette, in Terence J. Henley (ed.), Visionary: A science fiction anthology in the spirit of the British Interplanetary Society (British Interplanetary Society, 2014), p.169-233.

The version available here is completely transcribed into the reformed English spelling adopted for use on Mars and on the starship Herəld ov Intəstelər Frendship.

Key to the reformed spelling system of the Astrənist Skript (pdf)

The Marchioness (2015):

In a narrow, low-ceilinged corridor under brilliant strip lighting a smartly dressed woman of about thirty carrying a travelling bag in one hand was marching stiffly towards an archway bearing the sign: DEPARTURES.

“Hey!”, a voice shouted, “You can’t go through there!”

She hesitated, glanced around, then saw a young man in dark blue overalls at the end of the corridor moving in front of her to block her way to the departure gate. She continued on her way towards him.

An observer would have noticed something strange about the way she moved. Her feet stuck slightly to the floor every time she put them down, requiring a deliberate effort in order to release each foot to take the next step. Her body weight was not centered over her feet, and she was using her free hand to pull on a handrail in order to help move herself forward.

Reaching the man in overalls she held out her right hand, palm upwards. “Check my ID again if you must, but quick. I’m in a hurry.”

The young man gave her a distrustful look. He was floating in the air in front of her, legs slightly bent, his feet not even touching the floor. From a pouch on his belt he produced a scanning device with a small screen, held it over her hand and looked at the screen. “Your name?”

“Lady Rhoda Barwell, ninth Marchioness of Oxonstein. Date of birth 19th of May 2031. I’m booked on the shuttle to the Arcadia.”

“The Arcadia’s no longer in service, madam.”

“Yes it is. I’m booked. Check my security clearance. And it’s ‘milady’ to you!”

While the fellow stared at his scanner and pressed a couple of buttons, two of his colleagues, similarly dressed, emerged from side doors, again floating weightlessly, and came to his side. The three of them studied the screen together, then gave each other a disbelieving glance.

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Note: written after reading Andy Weir’s novel The Martian. Not yet published in print.