Flash Fiction--WEP: Footprints

It's that time, a little early this month because of the holidays. I put off writing my story to the last minute, hoping for inspiration. You get to decide if I got it :)

WEP/IWSG challenges are open to all.
On the 1st of the challenge month, there will be a get-your-thinking-caps on post. The badge will include the dates of the challenge and the winner’s prize.
Going forward, the InLinkz sign up will open on the third Wednesday and close 3 days later. Participants link up with the DLs.
Team members collate a SHORTLIST and Nick Wilford judges WINNER, RUNNER UP and ENCOURAGEMENT AWARD.
The BEST COMMENTER AWARD will continue, shared by different people, so keep on reading wonderful people!

And look who won the Commenter Award this time!

Xavier Xanthum may deserve a little explanation. I invented him years ago for an X post in the A to Z blogging challenge, and kind of fell in love with my absurd space explorer. He's a bit of a dweeb, a bit of a nerd, and a loner who isn't always sure if that's by choice or necessity. His best friend is his ship's AI.

Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer: Footprints

Footprints: A Xavier Xanthum Adventure

Xavier Xanthum  studied the ground beneath the Wanderlust with a scowl, and grunted.

“What is troubling you, Captain?” Larry asked. The AI materialized his floating eyeballs so they could peer into the vidscreen along with the space explorer.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Xavier said. “You aren’t fooling anyone. I know you do your seeing with the hull-mount cameras.”

“Does it not give you comfort to know that I am also studying the situation?”

“No.” Xavier tore his gaze from the screen long enough to glance at his semi-real companion. “Yes. I’m glad you’re looking. I don’t need the eyeballs to know that. Anyway, this isn’t that kind of situation. I just was hoping for something more… interesting.”

Larry directed his eyeballs back to the screen, and appeared to consider the view of the land beneath them. “It may be lacking variety,” he pointed out, “but it looks… safe.”

Xavier sighed. “It does. Safe, and boring, and not likely to be profitable. Still, we’re here, so I suppose I should go down and investigate. Any signs of life?” He waited patiently while Larry did a complete scan of both the records and all his instruments.

“No life reported above single-cell organisms. Nothing on my sensors. The planet has been visited by three previous explorers, none of whom found anything of worth. Why have we come here?”

“I was going to ask you that. Three previous explorers?” They argued for a few minutes over who was responsible for wasting their time with such a planet.

Larry ended the argument. “I need a few hours in the upper atmosphere to recharge certain systems. You may as well go down. It looks like a nice beach.”

Still grumbling and griping, Xavier prepared himself for the descent to the planet.

“Take your swim trunks,” Larry advised. “The atmosphere and water check out as healthy for humans.”

“It’s uninhabited. Why would I need swim trunks?”


An hour or two later, Xavier climbed out of the landing pod and stretched. The air felt flat, with no plants or animals to create smells. The land was an endless expanse of dark sand, eroded from the distant volcanic mounds, heaped into low dunes along the shore as far as he could see. It was pretty, in a bleak sort of way.

Xavier touched his radio. “I’m going for a swim, then taking a look around. You can track me while I’m swimming.”

The space pilot skinned out of his flight jumper and shoes, and headed for the water. The sand was hot, so he ran a little. The water was the perfect temperature, and he began to think the planet ought to be worth developing as a resort.

Tired of swimming, he decided to walk along the beach a ways, to see if he could spot any landscape features more interesting than the volcanoes. He stayed on the damp edge of the beach to avoid the hot sand.

Xavier was perhaps a kilometer from his landing pod when he stopped, staring at the ground.


He looked behind him. His own prints led in a straight line back to the landing pod. These led up to the dunes. The prints were humanoid, and there were at least three of them. Xavier decided he was naked, rather than nude.

“Larry? Can you get me out of here?” He asked it before remembering that his comms connection was in his jumpsuit. He’d been too cheap to get it implanted. Well, there was nothing to panic over. He’d just turn around and head back…

Three women appeared over a small dune. Without plants or anything to provide perspective, he’d not known there were dunes high enough to hide a person, let alone a trio of them, and their ship? Why didn’t Larry know these women were here?

And why hadn’t he worn his swim trunks?

The women wore swim suits. There were three women in swimsuits walking towards him, and it had been ages since Xavier had taken shore leave anywhere with such creatures. For a moment he froze.

The one on the right, a blonde he was pretty sure was stunning, opened her mouth. To speak to him, or to scream at the sight of a naked man? Or to laugh?

Feeling inadequate as well as under-dressed, Xavier did the only thing he could.

He turned and ran for the water. It had been a while, but he was pretty sure he could swim a mile back to his pod.

For the first hundred meters, the swim felt great. Xavier paused after a while to check that he was getting away. Three heads plowed through the water, three sets of arms flashing in the sunlight. Xavier thought he was a good swimmer, but they were better. How long had they been on this planet, practicing, lying in wait for an unsuspecting space explorer?

For a moment he hesitated. Maybe they were marooned and needed help? Maybe he should stop and talk?

Why weren’t they calling to him, then? If they needed help, they’d be shouting at him about it.

Those three sleek bodies, carving through the water towards him… Xavier panicked again.

He swam for the shore and surfed up onto the beach. Staggering out of the water, he broke into a run.

His pursuers caught him a dozen yards from the pod.


If Xavier suffered a fate worse than death, he didn’t seem to mind. A long time later, he entered the pod, not seeming to notice that the beach was now empty of all but himself.

“Larry, you knew those women were down there. Why didn’t you warn me?”

The AI sounded far more smug than a machine should. “I did suggest you wear your swim trunks.”

Xavier didn’t press the point. He was asleep.

Larry hummed a bit as he navigated the pod back to the Wanderlust, no end pleased with himself.



990 words; FCA

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


Popular Posts

#IWSG + Cozy Review & Author Interview: Murder in Second Position

Cozy Review & Author Guest Post: Something Shady at Sunshine Haven

IWSG: The Highs and Lows