This is the seventh story to be generated by the 'September Madness' post and is inspired by prompts from Aidan Fritz (aka @AidanFritz) and John Xero (aka @Xeroverse).  I wanted the bonus points for a combo!

Although September is long behind us, I'm still going to honour all the prompts that came in (which may take a while :) ). If you want to see the full list of prompts or check out the other stories from that post then click here.



I rest my spade in the ground and take a break.

Slowly, the sun rises, so full of colours I want to weep. As blue as the sea, as white as snow, lip red, bruise purple, a hundred shades and all that goes between. Dawn is my favourite time. It’s too early for disappointment and there’s everything to play for.

Reality pulls at me, dragging my gaze down. On the horizon I see the city of my grandfathers, overgrown and overrun by nature. The distinctive skyline covered by a scab of green.

And again the view drags down, to the bodies at my feet.

We came here to find out the truth, archaeologists of our own culture. Jeb was the first to learn why our ancestors fell upon each other so suddenly, so finally. After a week of trying, when the rest of us had given up, Jeb managed to access the records documenting civilisation’s end.

By the time Adam and I found him he’d killed six members of our team and had his hands at the throat of the seventh.

I don’t know if it was my bullet that ended Jeb or Adam’s. Maybe it was a combination of wounds that killed him, or a sudden heart failure, or a bolt of lightning. Here, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that he’s dead.

Jeb died with his eyes open. They stare up at me even now. Glassy sphere’s that declare me murderer, judge, hypocrite.

I cover them with earth and immediately feel better.


It’s a short walk back to camp but my breath rasps in my helmet before I’m halfway there.

Our home is made of blocks, some joined together to make bigger rooms, others held apart for sleeping spaces or storage. The structure is capable of sustaining thirty at a push and considered spacious for our team of ten. It is too much for two to bear.

I’m struggling now. A part of me doesn’t want to go any further but my stubborn feet have already taken that critical step, crossing into the borderlands that exist between in and out, what could be achieved and what is not, between Adam and me.

Above, the sun is yellow, banal.


I’m out of the suit and breathing recycled air. I should feel less restricted but I don’t. Pressure is building, pressing inwards, a gravity of the mind that eats dreams. For, if dreams are made of anything, surely they are made of light? Tiny electrical flares grow sluggish in my brain, each containing a universe slightly different to ours.

Soon I will forget; there is no room for them here.

I enter the kitchen to see a man with his back to me and feel the last flickers of resistance.

It is Adam. I love this man more than I love myself. He is father, brother and son made one flesh. The thought of him warms me, completes me, makes it safe.

He stoops to pick up something from a lower draw, a long slab of firm jelly. He begins to cut it into slices for our dinner. He’ll add the flavour later.

It is Adam. I hate this man. He is pathetic, he drags me down, he’s in the way, a mote in the path of god. The urge to take his knife and turn it against his eyes sweeps over me.

He pauses, having heard my entrance.

It is Adam. I feel nothing. The name is a label, useful only for identification. Is this man real? Does he even exist?

He’s turning.

Potential truths rush through me, desperate to be heard before extinction.

Adam bores me, infuriates me, intrigues me, makes me cold, hot, wet, anxious, malevolent, funny, wishful, bashful, murderous, insane, nostalgic –

His eyes meet mine.

And my many states fold inward, defining and confining. I just have time to wonder, what will be true today?

It is Adam. I feel conflicted. He isn’t a friend I’d choose but we are companions brought close by shared horror. I wish he was dead, I’m glad he isn’t. Guilt and frustration sit side by side in my guts, holding hands.

The truth is we are all things, held in readiness, until we are in company. That is the knowledge that I took from Jeb’s dripping neural net. Our grandfather’s learned that the only thing stopping them from ascension was each other. Each human being a living mirror to hold the shape of their neighbour, reflecting fragments of what could be and making those fragments real. A mutual stunting, a grand denial of greatness.

But mirrors can be broken.

Adam smiles, glad to see me and, as usual, I smile back. I’m no killer, it isn’t in me today.

Not today.


(Original Prompt 1: My prompt would be a world where quantum mechanics applies to people (in particular the idea of superposition). I'm particularly thinking of weakly interpreting this in a way where people can overlap in the same space and time (possibly unless measured). What implications does this have for the world and culture? Bonus points for combining this into one of the previous prompts ;))

(Original prompt 2: So my prompt is a use of the word 'borderlands')

25 responses to “Limitless

  1. Pete, that is stunning, from the description of the dawn colours to the collapsing of potential realities. I love the central idea, that observation by others holds us to one existence, and to realise the true, full possibilities of our lives we must remove all observers. Awesome stuff.

    Maybe this explains why writers often write better in solitude… 😉

    There was a great comic I read once, where a new superhero appeared, but he appeared multiple times, with variations of powers, all at once (I think some heroes, some villains.) The regular heroes tracked the newby back to the source, and found a guy in a bath, electrocuted. The idea being that his accident might have given him all kinds of powers (in that superhero origin way), but when someone witnessed him dead, in the bathtub, all those possibilities collapsed into the one stark reality.

  2. At first I thought this was going to be a "long after the zombie apocalypse" piece. This is, in a way, more chilling.

    Good to see you guys flashing again!

    • Thanks Larry. It's nice to be back. Between internet issues and obsessively trying to get stuff done on my WIP (and the usual real life stuff) I've been something of a hermit lately.

  3. Oh, very chilling. Great use of the quantum mechanics prompt!

  4. great ideas displayed here with an urgency of voice building up to.

    My own latest novel explores similar themes of the quantum nature of character, mood and decision making, involving the Butterfly Effect & Schrodinger's Cat. It's such an endlessly rich seam for writers.

    Great stuff

  5. Given how exhausted I am, I'm either in the best or worst frame of mind to read the fruits of that prompt. I can't tell which. More than any splaying of theme or science, I just appreciated the optimism about mornings in the opening.

  6. Great description and setting of the scene in the opening, and the rest is really thought provoking and fascinating as a concept. The idea that we inform the shape of others — simple and complex, both!

  7. There was a coldness, almost chilling about this piece, and yet hidden within it felt a ray of hope, recognising that the killer wasn't in him today – but maybe it is at the same time somewhere else…… gets you thinking.

  8. A riveting piece of writing Peter, the post-apocalyptic stories always draw me in, and this one is just brilliant. Good to see you on here again. 🙂

  9. I loved this! The paragraph where his emotions towards Adam are opposed is brilliant. I found this piece chilling; the idea on which it stands has the horror element, but also a certain feel of some hope, somewhere. Great stuff!

  10. This is an incredibly clever piece. Love it!

  11. This was brilliant — as in, I wish it were part of a novel brilliant. It's funny, because I'm a total wimp and have a hard time with a lot of violent films (with some major exceptions), but one of the things I admire here is how the violence soaks through everything, even the description of the dawn sky. But at the same time, the appreciation of beauty soaks through everything too. Which I suppose is what the point was, but it was very well done.

    • Thanks Katherine. For what's it's worth I'm a complete wimp when it comes to films too. I can't do horror at all (as a kid I found the snow monster scary in Empire Strikes Back to give you an idea). But violence in books doesn't bother me so much.

  12. Brilliant descriptions and language. The pace of this piece was great too and consistent – nice work

  13. WOW – Peter Newman this is amazing! I'm glad I stumbled upon it. These two lines…"Dawn is my favourite time. It’s too early for disappointment and there’s everything to play for." are just…wow…fantastic. Wonderful imagery and language. Very well done! I look forward to reading more of your work.

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