BLOOD OATH • by John Eric Vona

I would never betray my brother, but something must be done. This war, no, this blood feud, because the war ended a long time ago, cannot go on forever. Neither of us has ever known anything but bloodshed and I know he’s having trouble letting go. Makes you think the peacebeats could have been right when they stopped the fighting with the squids and tried to pull humanity out of their part of the galaxy. But this part of the galaxy is our home and nothing can make me think our grandparents were wrong for staying, not even the scars on my little brother’s face.

We call him Moonface because of the craters that mar his cheeks. The glass shield of his armor suit shattered during a squid ambush. He was twelve. He smiles at me now, thin-lipped and grim, as we step into the airlock.

“Not too late to grab the guns and paste these squirmers,” he whispers.

“Tell me you left them in the ship.”

“Left what?”

“The guns.”

Moonface winks.

The opposing airlock opens and, through an icy mist, a mass of writhing tentacles appears. In my youth, I would have tried to count them, but not now. It doesn’t matter, one way or the other.

“Last chance,” he says. I feel the anxiety, the shifting jitters, of the others in our crew.

Even though we can talk to them now, the squids hate us as much as ever. I doubt peace can really work. Earth’s peace is built on a military that could swat away a squid attack with less fuss than a training exercise and the fact that the squid home world was destroyed during the war, leaving them scattered and broken.

The body of one squid emerges from the tangle and speaks into a medallion translator.

He says he wants peace.

My brother snorts and I elbow him. I deliver the terms while my crew shakes their heads and scuffs the airlock floor with their boots.

The squirmer tries to haggle, but I shut him down.

“Take it to your people,” I say and remove a knife from my belt.

The tangle of squids tightens.

No weapons, the translator squawks.

“It’s an old Earth custom,” I explain. “To seal a deal, we make a blood oath.” I run the blade across my palm and hand the knife to my brother. He looks at me with complete confidence that I’ve gone insane.

But the squid cuts a tentacle and extends it, the warmth of my blood mingling with the chill of the squid’s. I’ve just made history and Moonface doesn’t even know it. The treaty they signed with Earth was made on paper, but ours is made in blood. The squid’ll return home and slither and touch every one of his kin, giving them every human disease I’ve been inoculated for and they’ve never encountered in their virus-free environment.

I turn and wink at my scowling little brother. I would never betray my brother.

John Eric Vona is a graduate of Florida State University’s undergraduate creative writing program where he studied with fiction writers like Charles Henley, Mark Winegardner, and Elizabeth Stuckey-French. His work has been featured in Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 365 Tomorrows. He lives in Tampa with his gorgeous wife, Mary.

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Every Day Fiction

  • fishlovesca

    Well that was pretty brutal. Nice work.

  • Stephen Rosenthal

    Perfect short read for a sci-fi buff like me. 5 stars.

  • Humans! You just can’t trust them.

    I loved this, even if it was bit of a ‘War of the Worlds’ scenario at the end.

  • Pamela

    I’m not a sci-fi buff but I thought this was well written and carried me through the story nicely.

  • Five tentacles…I like.

  • Sheila Cornelius

    Not one for me. I kept thinking how tasty squid can be tin a stew and how I prefer the plural form without an ‘s’

  • Excellent. Great piece of short Sci-Fi. I like how you start with the same line and end with it. It shows flash fiction can truly be an art form.

  • vondrakker

    A masterpiece John
    Five universal stars !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ajcap

    Nods for the ending. Did not see that coming and a great solution. Also for good writing, the relationship between the brothers told us a lot about them both.

    Niggles for this one sentence that doesn’t seem to flow well;
    Earth’s peace is built on a military that could swat away a squid attack with less fuss than a training exercise and the fact that the squid home world was destroyed during the war, leaving them scattered and broken.

    Very little niggle, lots of nods. Very enjoyable read.

  • I experienced the same issue as ajcap (#9). I had to diagram that sentence in my head before understanding what it meant.

    Other than the one challenging sentence, I enjoyed every word of this. (And I didn’t dislike that one sentence; I love a good challenge, lol.) Well done!

  • JoeK

    Hard to believe the war went on so long if the ol’ squiddies are this profoundly stupid. So, the ending didn’t work at all for me. In any case, the genocide angle isn’t particularly original (did I see someone mention “War of the Worlds” above?)

    Tight writing, though, and I like the contrast of a space epic reduced to a bloody handshake.

  • JenM

    I loved this, a fun little scifi story!

  • I liked it. The ending did remind me of War of the Worlds and other stories, but if we only allowed creative, never-before-used endings, we’d soon be out of stories to write.

    The one long sentence stopped me too. Should have been at least two sentences and clarified a bit.

  • I’m a sci-fi aficionado so this story was a go from the start, although I have to echo #11 (JoeK) comments — the squids did seem a little lame. Typically you want the adversary to be as strong or stronger than you so that the conflict and outcome is in doubt and means something to the victor.

    Anyway, I’m also assuming that the humans previously dissected and analyzed the squids so they knew that swapping bodily fluids with them wouldn’t impart a blood-borne pathogen to the human race, otherwise….

    I’d like to give this a four, but my heart tells me three…

  • Anon

    Well paced and intriguing. I liked the nickname and description of Moonface. The ending seems cliche and was what kept it from truly working for me. Almost the same exact ending as War of the Worlds. Still, always nice to read a fun adventure set in space!

  • I wonder if the squids had the same general idea…

  • JoeK

    @16. PML, your comment gave me a LLOL (literal laugh out loud)!

    I also wonder if the perpetrator of this genocidal act will be facing court martial when he gets home — he didn’t exactly follow orders!) In that sense, this could be a very fun piece if extended…

  • ajcap

    Yes, @16, you did give me an OMG moment but then remembered that the author used the term ‘virus-free’ to describe the squids.

    Still. Could be some sort of parasite in their fluids….

  • Definitely entertaining. As another Sci-Fi fan, this was familiar space-marine material, and there were a few questions raised (like how did the squids fight? They seemed pretty passive), but all-in-all it was a solid and enjoyable story.

    The ‘veteran fighters refusing to accept peace’ theme was very nicely handled, and I liked the use of the blood motif — the narrator’s literally using his blood to defeat the threat that scarred ‘his blood’.

    Yep — familiar, but solid and entertaining.

  • Carolina

    This story sounded very familiar. Probably because it was one of the Dominion storylines used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

    Where the Federation gave a virus to Odo (the changeling on DS9)who then unknowningly passed it onto the other changeling (who ran the dominion) when he merged with them sickening all of them.

    I would have been more entertained if the story hadn’t felt like such a blatant rip off.

  • S.E. Gaime

    I enjoyed this. It’s familiar, but not in a bad way in my mind. And kudos for using space squid!

  • Like Carolina I found the “twist” a little too derivative – I was thinking War of the Worlds instead of DS9.

    I did however enjoy the strong, energetic voice. A deliberate riff on Heinlein?

  • I loved the description of Moonface. It brought me right onto the battlefield with them, so to speak.

  • I thought the writing was tight and nice, and I disagree with those comparing it to War of The Worlds, because in that case, it was deus ex machina – in this case a *deliberate* attempt to wipe out the squid. I liked the beginning and ending with the same line.

    Still, I admire it, I didn’t really LIKE it. Not sure if that was because the characters were all unlikeble, even Moonface, or because there was no character arc – I didn’t get the feeling anyone had grown, changed, or learned anything, and when that’s applied to future humankind, is pretty depressing.

  • Good job son… folks don’t know your real little brother.