Short Fiction

The Roquethford Problem by Zachary Hart

Attempt #53:

Our unit arrives at the Roquethford base at approximately 14:09:73, Standard Universal Time. Upon approaching a distance of 43 meters from the outer wall, Hive Designate “Samuel Peckingforth” emerged from the automobile and began to approach on foot, hands up, palms facing forward. He gave a standard Earth greeting while offering a friendly facial expression. 43 microseconds later, a loud bang shot out from the base wall. Designate “Samuel Peckingforth” fell to the ground, now no longer functional. Chlorophyll leaked from Designate “Samuel Peckingforth’s” cranium, indicating breakage via one of Roquethford’s firearms. Upon observing this, Hive members “Sally Brown” and “Charles Devingauh” stayed in the automobile to avoid further loss of Hive members. Firearm bursts continued sounding for the next minute, cracks appearing in the glass of the windshield, indicating Roquethford was continuing his barrage. Upon private discussion, designates “Sally Brown” and “Charles Devingauh” reached conclusion Roquethford would not waste too much further ammunition. After some time, bursts ceased to sound, indicating ceasefire. Designate “Sally Brown”, concluding that Roquethford may react better to female presence, volunteered to speak to Roquethford. Following is complete and accurate transcription of conversation, as can be seen in memory file #3476-JK3:

Hive Member: “Greetings, Peter Roquethford.”

Roquethford: “Don’t come any closer, I’ll…(hesitates) I’ve told you before to get away!”

Hive Member: “We mean you no harm, Peter Roquethford. Becoming a member of the Assembly will merely–”

Roquethford: “Don’t give me that bullshit! I don’t wanna hear that bullshit! Just leave me to my private thoughts, will ya?”

Hive Member: “Roquethord, you sound stressed. Joining the Assembly will–”

(At this point in the conversation, Roquethford fired a projectile at Hive Member, blowing off the left ear.)

Roquethford: Take your damned alien, Commie, liberal bullshit off my land!”

(Hive Member considered situation carefully before responding.)

Hive Member: “Clearly, you are in no mind to reason, Roquethford. We shall return now to base and re-try tomorrow, at the same designate time.”

Hive Member Designate “Sally Brown” re-entered the vehicle and started back down the driveway. Roquethford continued to scream obscenities at Hive Members from afar, but exact details were considered superfluous to record.

End report.

 

Day 57:

The damn monsters tried again today. I killed one and shot the ear off of another. They don’t seem to care what I do to them, they only care about spreading. Well, they can integrate a corpse for all I care, cause I aint budgin from this place for a long time. If it comes down to it, I’ll use the last bullet on me.

Nobody responded via ham radio or anything else. Again. There must be somebody on the planet thats like me, still. But I’m starting to think otherwise.

Today I thought about the time my Pops bought me my first bebe gun. I hadnt asked for one I had actually asked for a gameboy, but Pops knew he needed to prepare me against threats. I sure hope Pops isnt one of them now.

Im alone. As far as I know, I’m the last human being on Earth. I am alone.

But thats just fine with me.

 

Attempt #54:

Upon further consideration, Hive members decided to use a different automobile to approach Roquethford, judging that perhaps he’d grown cynical to to the brand of automobile Hive members had previously been using. Members used up several hours finding an older model, and so arrived later than envisioned.

Roquethford did not shoot upon Hive Members’ arrival, perhaps out of belief that automobile occupants were fellow human beings. Upon exiting said vehicle, Assembly members were met with questions as to where they hailed from. Upon answer, Roquethford unleashed hail of bullets. Members retreated back into vehicle until hail of bullets ceased. Member Designate “James Devon” exited vehicle with hands up, palms facing forward. Roquethford shouted for Designate “James Devon” to “get the fuck off of [his] property,” calling Designate “James Devon” a “two-bit, pansy-assed, half-wit extraterrestrial.” Designate “James Devon” gave standard greeting before falling to hail of Roquethford’s bullets. Upon this incident, Designate “Carol Travers” exited vehicle, hands up, palms forward, giving standard greeting. As hypothesized earlier, Roquethford delayed shooting Designate “Carol Travers”, perhaps on account of Designate’s biological sex. Following is transcription of the remaining encounter:

Hive Member: “This is really delaying the inevitable, Roquethford.”

Roquethford: “Shut your piehole, alien! I’ve seen the movies, I know what you’re up to!”

Hive Member: “What would we be up to, Roquethford?”

Roquethford: “You wanna drain all independence from our planet, ‘cause you can’t stand individualism, that’s what! You’re just going to turn me into one of you!”

Hive Member: “That is correct, but perhaps you’re blowing the negative aspects out of proportion. Hive Members are allowed to follow their own interests in careers, Roquethford. You would be part of a collective that–”

(Roquethford fires shot, disabling Hive member.)

Hive Member: “Perhaps if you would give us time to explain–”

Roquethford: “No! If you keep talking, you’ll just brainwash me! Well, I ain’t falling for it!”

Hive Member: “Clearly, you are in no mind to reason, Roquethford. We shall–”

(Roquethford shoots Hive member in throat, making rest of statement delivery impossible. Another Hive member exits vehicle to deliver statement.)

Hive Member 2: “We shall return now to base and re-try tomorrow, at the same designate time.”

(Roquethford shoots Hive Member 2 in the knee, disabling them. Trip back proved difficult, but manageable.

End report.

 

Day 58:

They show up every day, now. Lousy parasites. They think they can break me after time but I won’t allow that.

Running low on food. May have to eat a bullet pretty soon. Death scares me, but not as much as those things do.

I might be the last human on Earth. For all I know, those things have taken over everybody else on the godforsaken planet. They talk all right, but I seen what they all can do to somebody.

Jim was a good guy who liked a beer every once in a while. He liked the Mustangs, but that could be forgiven. I kind of wish I had the time to say goodbye, before those things got em. Now, he’s just like the rest of im. They tell me that there slaves can choose whatever job they like, but it seems to me that they don’t have a real choice as to what they do. They just do.

Why am I writing this down? Who’s gonna see this? It’ll probly just be one of them aliens. Well, it doesnt matter. Ill just keep writing. Helps me think. Thinkin is all a man can do in the end. If I think then Im not like them. They remind me of college types that sure seem to talk pretty enough but they just spew whats given to them in class. None of them think. Not really.

Im tired. Time to do my daily chores round here before goin to bed. Im so very tired.

 

Attempt #55:

Assuming that the use of automobiles makes Roquethford wary, it was suggested that an on-foot approach would be more successful. Three hive members set out from before dawn to the Roquethford fortress. Upon arrival, two were shot down, with one just managing to return to make this report.

End report.

 

Day 59:

Damn aliens dont unnerstand that Im not budgin. They came on foot this time, but I recognized them by there clothes. They dress all the same even when hiking. There so stupid its almost scary how they got everyone else.

Everyone else.

I wish I had some books to read. I was never a reader, but seein there stupidity reminds me how much my brother use to read. He was smart, in his own way. A bit stuck up, but smart. Smart ass I guess youd call him.

He was like one of them aliens, but he was against them in the end. He use to talk bout how they demonized free speech at the colleges. We didn’t see eye to eye on most things, but he said colleges were gettin out of hand a bit. The the invasin came and he called me up an told me it was too late fer him but I should stalk up on supplies. I was waitin for the end soon anyway. Didn’t think itd come so soon or like this.

I wish I had some company. Bein alone might be the worst thing.

 

Attempt #56:

Three hive members were sent out at regular time. None came back by end of day cycle. It was suggested that perhaps Roquethford may be more trouble than he’s worth. Further discussion encouraged before sending more resources out.

End report.

 

Day 60:

60 days. Two months since the damn invasin started and I havent seen a single soul. Not one.

My brother use to talk about depression to me. I always thought pills were a waste of time for somethin that seemed mental. Why not just think other things? But I feel depressed right now. My brother said it was a mental illness, but Im starting to think its just lonliness that causes it. Im startin to wonder what the point in even bein alive is like without any people or shows or movies, books, games, anythin like that. Its just me. I don’t even have a dog to talk to.

I wonder if the animals actually are affected or not? They seem to behave the same, but how would I really know I cant take the risk of lettin one in. Or eatin one, now that I think about it.

My food supply is down to its last. I may have to end it soon, one way or another.

 

Day 61:

None of the aliens came today. I dont know what to do now. Perhaps there plannin somethin? Or there tryin to sneak in another way. Must be wary so I have to cut this entry short.

Waited a while, doin patrol. Nothin out of the ordinary. Maybe they gave up. Or there playin mind games. Would they do that? Of course they would. There evil aliens. They probly want me to exit the place so they can take me over. Well Im not budgin. Not even budgin.

This is too much for me. What are they plannin anyway?

I better try to sleep, but I dont dare. What if they want to invade tonight? Theyve been playin it safe so far, and they probly want to just assault me, now. Theyll take me by force, now. Well, Ill just sit out here all night if I have to, but they wont get the drop on me.

Day 62:

I fell asleep last night. Stupid. But nothin changed as far as I could tell. As far as I know, that is. But what if theyre alreddy here? What if I have to be awake fer them to git me? I should hunt every room for them.

After some searchin, I found nothin. Nothin at all. Its almost worse then if I found somethin. At least wit somethin, I could know whats goin to kill me.

No, not kill. Brainwash me to be like them.

Why? Why do they want me to be like them? Why cant they just leave me be? Im not hurtin them. Well, unlesss they come by my fort. Then I do. But they dont need to even come by my fort!

I hate them. I hate all of them. I want to kill them. There arent words to describe my hatred of those things. They ended the world, for fuck’s sake! My family is dead or worse. Everythin, all of human history is gone, from the earliest, from Adam and Eve, its all just…gone. How can I even begin to get revenge for all that?

 

The Roquethford Problem:

Daniel Roquethford has locked himself away with a great quantity of food and ammunition in a private fort. All attempts to convince him to come out from his own free will has failed. A direct, physical assault would most likely result in a suicide on his part. Waiting him out would also likely result in suicide or starvation on his part. A stealth attack appears to be the only way to obtain Roquethford’s body as part of the Assembly.

However, the outcome of a stealth attack is uncertain, and the question arises whether obtainment of one individual is worth the loss of bodies that may result from such an attempt, or have resulted from previous attempts. At this point in the matter, it seems unlikely for Roquethford to pose any serious threat to the Hive. However, concern is that he would wipe out a good number of individual hive members with a single well-placed strike, in a manner similar to the “mass shooters” of Earth’s bygone era.

Perhaps, then, a more indirect approach is necessary, no matter how non-ideal it may prove to be.

 

Day 63:

The crazy bastards bombed my house. The crazy bastards bombed my house. THEY BOMBED MY FUCKING HOUSE!

Okay, so I needed to catch my bearings there for a minute. If I lose my bearings, they’ll catch me in no time. I’ve survived this long by being smart. Also, having ammo.

I need more ammo. Makin a note of that.

I wonder if anybody’s going to read this. So far, all the people left are those things. No one’s gonna read this. No one’s gonna care. Just figures don’t it? Intelligent life comes from space and it couldnt care less about livin.

Is there even any other life out there besides those things?

Probly not.

Thatd just figure.

Anyway, I guess I should explain what happened and how I survived. Well basically it amounts to that I was doing some early mornin huntin out in the woods and taking my notebook out to jot down my thoughts as usual when I heard a plane overhead. Then I saw it drop somethin and it turned out to be a bomb that they dropped on my fort. All I have is my gun and my notebook. And my pencil I guess.

Yeah thats it: I survived from sheer dumb luck. Dumb fucking luck. Id say God was on my side but frankly I don’t think Hes with humanity anymore.

So, with the aliens thinking Im dead now I guess I should get movin. Dont want them knowin Im still alive I guess.

Im gonna keep one bullet on me. Just in case.

Roquethford Update:

Having searched the remains of the Roquethford fort, we have determined that Roquethford is still alive somewhere. However, as his fortress was the main obstacle to confronting him, we choose to view this as a positive development towards obtaining Roquethford into the Assembly and/or eliminating him as a threat.

This is our top priority: once Roquethford is taken care of, we shall move onto other worlds, spreading our being over them.

Follow Up:

We have found Roquethford.

We discovered Roquethford hiding out in a makeshift hut and gave chase. However, attempts to obtain him for the Collective proved unsuccessful when he committed suicide via his last bullet.

On Roquethford’s person was found a notebook. This notebook contains his final thoughts and feelings over the past few months, detailing what it was like for him to survive our conquest. Although not too terribly different from many such recordings of this nature, it is one more instance of the question that continues to concern us:

“Why?”

Why must we absorb individuals into our being?

Over the past few cycles, we have contemplated this question, and still it troubles us, this feeling that our continued goal is pointless and without meaning. Why must we spread, eliminating such individual thought, if it poses no such threat to our own?

Why must we, except for the same reason that Roquethford was so committed to life, despite the sheer helplessness of his situation.

This may require additional thought. Fortunately, we have several minds with which to work it through.

 

Zachary Hart

Image by tprzem from Pixabay

 

 

NOTe: The grammatical anomalies in this piece are as submitted and are an integral part of the story. dd

 

3 thoughts on “The Roquethford Problem by Zachary Hart”

  1. Interesting and arresting. Too intricate to pass a blithe comment on. But I will say that I mean interesting in a good way, not the way you use on a child who shows you whatever abortion he made in art class.

    Like

  2. Very interesting and absorbing story. I found it quite well written and well paced, and a topical subject re: the polarization of opinion and free speech issues. The “aliens” and the Unabomber clone could’ve been cliches but then the writing went deeper into individual character of the man, and his isolation, and the hive characters questioning their purpose.

    Like

  3. Hi Zachary,
    I can’t top what Harrison has said but I just want to emphasise his point on pace.
    You got this spot on and that enhances the reading experience.
    This is hard to do, but when done well it balances the story perfectly.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Like

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