The Center – The Speakeasy

The Center

“There is no warning rattle at the door,” he said. “Their wings make no sound at all.”

The infuriating woman just smirked. “Of course. They’re predators after all.” Magdalene Curry turned and emptied stew into a bowl. Stephon’s mouth filled with saliva as she placed it before him. “Eat. You must be starving.”

As he gobbled down the rich broth, he looked around the cottage. His senses were still alive with adrenalin flowing during his escape from the destruction of New Kingston. Unlike the colony’s primary city, the cottage was built by hand with native woods. Living vines grew in the corners, producing flowers and assorted vegetables. Magdalene collected the second bowl he’d emptied and placed it in the sink beside the collection of native fruits, held in dried gourds.

She must be insane, thought Stephon. Plenty of people had built their homes in a day with prefab materials and nano-assemblers. The xeno-biologist had taken months at least to build this place from native materials. He watched her ample form as she washed the bowls. Her semi-sheer dress, patterned with lush Hindu imagery, revealed nothing beneath. She was open, direct, a nature woman in every aspect from her home to the loose curly hair falling to her waist. An enigma to Stephon while living 121 light-years from Earth.

He noted her windows weren’t boarded up, even though the last emergency broadcast from New Kingston warned of animal rampages, the very attacks that decimated the city. He watched a Titmouse perching on a sculpture outside. Carribea had proven so Earth-like that humans and Earth animals could live on the native flora and fauna. Trouble was, that meant the native predators could eat terrestrial animals too. The chromium-rich flesh of Earth creatures proved irresistible to Carribea’s predators. After killing off the giant Bostic’s Griffins in the area, New Kingston thought their native predator problems were gone.

And then the Spinecats appeared…in vast numbers, Griffins right behind them. New Kingston fell within a week.

Stephon watched her sit across from him, so at ease and assured. He flushed with anger at this strange woman. “How can you be so calm? Our colony is dying!”

She smirked again. “Why is that?”

“Why? WHY? Because we’re being eaten.”

She shook her head, smiling sympathetically. “So many lessons taught on Earth, yet humanity still cannot find The Center.”

“The Center? What does that mean?”

“When the colony first began, what did it do when it discovered Bostic’s Griffins.”

“Those things? They’re giants! 18-foot wingspan. Killing claws on forelegs and main legs. Apex predators. We’re 121 light years from ANY support. Three years before a supply-ship appears. We did what we had to.”

“You killed them.”

“We protected ourselves!

“Have you ever seen a Griffin kill a human?”

Stephon paused, suddenly uncertain. “I watched two dismantle a cow in minutes.”

“But no human. And then the Spinecats appeared…en masse.”

Stephon had seen groups of them, feeding on still-screaming humans. The 100-pound predators, with spines projecting from the neck and back, were shy in singles. Attacking in a pack, they were deadly. “Yes. We’ve never seen so many at once before.”

“Isn’t that interesting? Why do you suppose a predator has spines?”

“Who cares? They’re…”

“Why don’t Earth lions have spines, hmmm?

“I don’t know! I’m not a biologist.”

“…Because nothing preys upon lions. So what might prey upon Spinecats?” Magdalena stood up suddenly and walked out the front door.

Stephon moved to the window to see where she went. There, beside the nymph fountain, a fourteen-foot long Bostic’s Griffin lounged on the ground. It’s feathers were brilliant white with black wingtips on its 18-foot wings. Magdalena walked directly to the massive predator and lay against it, urging him to join her. He walked outside on wobbly knees in shock. “How?” he croaked.

“We’ve an agreement. I don’t kill my best defense.” Idly, Magdalena scratched behind the long ears of the griffin. The 8-inch jaws, filled with serrated teeth fell open and the beast’s eyes closed with pleasure. “I’m safe with my friend here,” said Magdalena. “Spinecats need the chromium in our flesh, but griffins don’t. Bostic’s Griffin’s natural prey is the Spinecat. The only thing keeping those prolific breeders in check is griffins.”

It all fell upon Stephon in a rush. Humanity had killed off their best protection from their real problem, and paid the price at New Kingston.

Magdalena patted the downy feathers beside her, full lips smiling. “Come,” she soothed. “Let’s find The Center again together.”
Author’s Notes:
Xeno-biology is a real field of study, though there’s not a lot of them…yet. Xeno-biology = The study of alien biology.

The idea of Bostic’s Griffin comes from the real and extinct, Haast’s Eagle, the largest eagle in Earth history. Haast’s Eagle went extinct when the Maori drove the Moa to extinction with over-hunting in the 1400s. This is one of the lessons Magdalena was referring to. More info here:

Chromium is an essential part of the human diet:

This week’s writing challenge at the Speakeasy must begin with the sentence, “There is no warning rattle at the door.” The media prompt is a picture of a Titmouse. Look for lots of wonderful story responses to the challenge right here:


About EagleAye

I like looking at the serious subjects in the news and seeking the lighter side of the issue. I love satire and spoofs. I see the ridiculous side of things all the time, and my goal is to share that light-hearted view.
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29 Responses to The Center – The Speakeasy

  1. A rather cool parable for what humans are doing – and have done – to the environment. The NZ issue continues – the current problem is the way native birds were hit by introduced animals brought in during the nineteenth century. There is a loud and probably specious debate just now about domestic cats, even. In the wild, one of the bigger problems is the opossum… And don’t get me started on rabbits! Not a killer of native fauna, just a pest. Some idiot illegally smuggled calicivirus in to kill them with the result that now we have a rabbit population immune tto it. Just like the science community warned. On a more positive note, of late the native birds have started coming back to urban areas. We have a morepork living near us, which is kind of cool.


    • EagleAye says:

      Thanks Matthew! It’s good to hear the native birds are responding well out your way. Invasive species can be a real problem. In Florida, Burmese Pythons are becoming a real problem because these “pests” are eating up all the native wildlife. Curiously, wild pigs are becoming real trouble out here too, although as much as we love pork, that problem shouldn’t last too long. 😉 I’ve heard much about the rabbits in Australia. I guess it’s a problem for you too, and then I understand Dingoes aren’t native to Australia and they are doing extremely well without any predators to counterbalance them. Humanity has many lessons to learn from. I do hope that when we find another pristine world in which to colonize, we learn from our lessons here. So far on Earth, humanity has been like a chimp pulling levers randomly in a nuclear power plant’s control center. A lot of smart people are taking the time to understand what we’re doing though, and hopefully wisdom will guide us in the future.


      • Hopefully. The NZ experience in the nineteenth century epitomised all that was wrong with the old system. The settlers brought in what they imagined would allow them to replicate England. Some even thought they should introduce giant African animals including elephants. Of course it didn’t work. One of the outcomes has been a change in the nature of New Zealand bush, which in the 1860s was tensely tangled with undergrowth. This materially affected the tactics of the New Zealand wars of the period. Today the bush is much more open. The cause is the opossum, brought in fron Australia, a pest that has stripped all the lower undergrowth. Our Department of Conservation regularly poisons them but it’s made no huge dent in the problem.


  2. Great story, well written and thought-provoking as well. I bounced over to your blog list of recent stories and enjoyed those also. Every one of them 🙂


    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you! I love it when I hear a story gets people thinking. I feel like I’ve fulfilled the purpose of writing. Glad you enjoyed the other stories. Thanks so much for visiting for a while. 🙂 Come back again soon.


  3. A.D. Everard says:

    This is brilliant! Love the dialogue here, it flows beautifully.


  4. Silverleaf says:

    Wonderful! A lesson about nature and balance, a moral and a really cool woman growing stuff in her house. How perfect is that!? This was creative as usual and a world full of strange, alien creatures that I could picture.


    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you thought Magdalene was cool. In my mind she’s a wise and very old soul. I wanted her to be strange but still likeable, someone you would enjoy learning from. It’s cool that you could picture the fauna of this world. I wanted the Griffin to be beautiful and mysterious to the eye. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your impressions! 🙂


  5. saroful says:

    Ooh, I like this world. I also enjoyed how you didn’t overdescribe anything, just threw us in with the main character’s knowledge and let us float.


    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you! I’m glad I got the description and action balanced well enough. It’s always a challenge to get the correct mix. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Thanks for the read! 🙂


  6. Cool story. I love your ability to create realistic fantasy/sci fiction worlds. You truly have a gift.


  7. Suzanne says:

    Fantastic story, Eric! Love the message, love the idea of a planet with Griffins! Great use of the prompts. 🙂

    Little side note: In the first paragraph, you call your hero Colin, but refer to him as Stephon after that.


    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you, Suzanne. Wouldn’t a planet with Griffins be awesome? Especially when it turned out they wouldn’t eat you after all? Glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for the catch. I’ll update it right now. Thanks so much for the wonderful comments as always. 🙂


  8. I’m always amazed at how you create worlds and have fully stories in so few words. Another amazing story!


    • EagleAye says:

      Thank you kindly! I rather enjoy imagining new worlds, so I’m glad you enjoy reading about them. Thank you so much for the compliments. It means a lot. 🙂


  9. cshowers says:

    Very interesting and enlightening!



  10. Meg says:

    Cool story, Eric! Reminds me of something Margaret Atwood would write.


    • EagleAye says:

      Okay, I have to admit: I looked up Margaret Atwood. Then I realized she penned “The Handmaid’s Tale” which was made into a movie. I’ve seen it. A very good one and controversial too. You do me honor by comparing me to her. Thank you so much!


      • Meg says:

        Just FYI: the book is SO MUCH BETTER than the movie. *Oryx and Crake* is even more in line with your story here…a great mix of science and post-apocalyptic world.


  11. Lyn says:

    Another enjoyable and very satisfying story, Eric. Are you planning on adding to the story? I like your characters, Magdalene and Stephon. Love the pet Griffin too 🙂


    • EagleAye says:

      Thanks Lyn! I like these characters too, especially Magdalene. I could envision her saying cryptic things that are quite useful, but no one understands until it comes down to brass tacks, and then they’ll wish they listened to her. She may make another appearance. The Griffin is no pet. Magdalene wouldn’t think of doing that. They’re more like comrades. The Griffins are extremely intelligent; I just didn’t have space to go into detail with that. There’s other details I didn’t have for the Griffins. They’re simply called that because there’s a similarity, but these guys are biologically far different. Yes, I think I may have to cover this character set a little more. Thanks much, Lyn!


  12. Indira says:

    I always enjoy your stories. This is thought provoking also.


    • EagleAye says:

      I’m glad to hear that! I do hope it gets folks to thinking a little bit. Hopefully future generations will think something like Magdalene. Thanks for the visit Indira!


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