So, the following story was inspired by a writing prompt on reddit posted by the user crimsonpuppet that went as follows: Aliens give you a camera and say "only those you photograph will live." You have one year. It was prompt that immediately fired up an idea and, since it went down rather well, I thought I'd post it here as well...
Alien abduction, let me tell you, is nothing like the movies. So if you were expecting a story of flying saucers, of bright blue beams of light and levitation, you are set to be rather disappointed.
It began with the sudden appearance of a black, metallic dodecahedron about the size of a garbage truck in my back garden. I had been pottering around the kitchen, making myself a cup of tea; one minute, the garden had been empty save for an ugly rosebush in the middle of the lawn that I'd never got around to digging out; the next minute, there it is was.
I think I must have squinted at it for a few moments, trying to think up a rational explanation for its intrusion upon the lawn, but it seemed a little too large to have come over the fence from the neighbour's children and so I quickly put rationality to one side and shrieked. Which was the moment that I realised that everything had stopped.
The cup of tea, which I had dropped in surprise, was still in mid-air, splashes of tea frozen like brown petals around it. A large fly, wings static, hovered in the air a few feet from my face. I reached out one hand, finger outstretched, and prodded the fly; it moved back a few inches but stayed resolutely suspended in the air. From what I could tell, with the obvious exception of myself, time had completely stopped.
"Terribly sorry about this," said a small voice from my left, and I looked down to see what looked like a small blue teddy bear standing by the kitchen door. "Time is of the essence or I'd not have to resort to such crude methods."
"Crude methods?" I asked.
"Mmm," said the bear and clicked on a small box he held clutched in his right hand (paw?). "Follow me."
Now, let me explain. At this point my mind was thinking "you must be joking, I don't know what is going on here but I can tell you one thing I know for sure; and that is that I am not going anywhere with you" but - despite this - my body said "sure thing, mr. blue bear."
And so, despite my mind desperately shouting orders to stand still, my body plodded out of the kitchen on auto pilot, traipsed barefoot into the garden, and then trudged up a ramp and into a portal that had opened on the side of the dodecahedron. The inside of the craft smelled strangely like burnt toast; which was the last thing I had time to notice before everything went suddenly black.
"He's coming round," said a small voice to my right.
"I don't think he is," said a small voice to my left.
"No, look, his eye coverings are all twitchy."
"Oh yes, so they are," there was the sound of furry paws clapped together. "Wonderful!"
I cracked open one eye, hoping this had all been some kind of terribly strange and not particularly pleasant dream. But no; I was lying on a flat surface, staring up at a featureless but lit ceiling, and two small blue teddy bear-like creatures were peering down at me.
"Oh bollocks," I said, "this isn't a dream is it?"
"Afraid not," said the bear on the right.
"Please tell me this isn't the bit where you anal probe me," I said, a degree of desperation creeping into my voice.
"Anal probe you?" said the bear on the left.
"What kind of perverts do you think we are?" asked the bear on the right.
"Well, I've just heard you aliens like to do that sort of thing," I mumbled, sheepishly.
"Sorry to dash your hopes," said left bear, "but anal probing isn't on the menu."
"No," said right bear, "We have brought you here because you have been chosen to save mankind."
"What?" I spluttered, "Me, save mankind? Are you sure you've taken the right person?"
"Oh yes," said the bear on the right, "It's definitely you. We ran the algorithms 393 times to be sure."
"But save mankind?"
"Oh, not all of it," laughed the bear on the left, "Oh dear no, that would be a silly thing to ask."
"No," said the bear on the right, "We need you to save the best of mankind. The very cream of the crop. Our analysis has predicted that you are the single most objective person on the entire Earth."
"Well, I don't know," said the bear on the left, "It could be purely a product of genetics, although I'd imagine parental upbringing and environmental factors also contributed to your objectivity..."
"No," I interrupted. "I mean, why do I need to save mankind?"
"Oh that," said the right bear, "Yes, we should probably have mentioned that. Gamma Ray Burst. Big One. Heading this way; going to boil the planet to a crisp."
"366 days from now."
"Only a year?"
"A year and a day."
"But can't you help us stop it?"
The bear on the right grimaced slightly, "Would love to, really I would, but there are protocols for these sort of things and - frankly - we're bending them a bit going this far."
"But how many people can I save?"
"Well, not everyone, as we mentioned; but quite a few. At least if you want to."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Got a soft spot for the place," said the left bear, "Would be a shame to see all you humans gone."
"And how do you expect me to save them?"
"Oh, you'll like this," said the bear on the right, "you have to take their photo."
"Yep, you photograph them and we'll make sure they're scooped up before things go thoroughly tits up around here."
"And that's all I have to do?"
"Well," said the bear on the right, "You only have a year. 365 days and everyone you photograph we'll save. Relocate you somewhere nice and altogether less Gamma Ray Bursty."
I began doing calculations in my head. 365 days. It was a lot. I could travel, I could take pictures of people in sport stadiums. I could take pictures of people at concerts. I could take pictures of heaving cities. I was sure, even with the limit of a year, that I could save millions. Maybe tens of millions.
"So, you up for it?" asked the left bear.
"Brilliant, well we'll see you in a year then," smiled the right bear, before looking slightly downcast. "Sorry about this again"
The world went black.
I opened my eyes and the tea cup smashed loudly on the kitchen floor, china flying in every direction.
For a second I thought it had just been a dream, a momentary bout of imaginative lunacy, but then I caught the faint whiff of burnt toast and I noticed the camera that was sitting on the kitchen worktop.
I looked at it. Then I laughed.
I had 365 days to save as much of mankind as I could photograph. And the blue teddy bear aliens, in their wisdom, had chosen to give me a 35mm Kodak Funsaver camera.
27 shots to save the world.