Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

Week 9 Story: Space Escape

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It’s usually a dull job writing the transcripts to security tapes, but the events in this series are the highlight of my career. These tapes just came in to the USS Argofrom a captured ship of the Varknoss race.

This camera shows a long hallway deep in the belly of the ship, which doesn’t look as alien as movies would have you think. It’s pretty normal, except it’s lined with doors, each with a label and a barred glass window. This is the brig. All the lights are on, and some of the prisoners pace their cells or sleep. It makes the hair on my arms stand up to see: most of them are humans.

At the end of the hallway, two figures appear. The first is our young hero: Lieutenant Chris Rowland of the USSS Endurance, a small vessels pilot. He looks pretty beat up, though the picture is blurry from this distance. The second figure is one of the Varknoss, a tall alien creature with a long, reptilian snout, clawed hands, and such a high body temperature that they can breathe fire. The Varknoss have a tentative peace treaty with us Earthlings, but the brig of this ship proves that the race still harbors cruel intentions toward humans.

The Varknoss goon throws Rowland in one of the cells, his nostrils hissing steam to scare the other occupants of the room from the door. Then the alien leaves, and the hallway returns to its previous silence.

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This camera gives us a better shot of what’s going on in Rowland’s room. Despite his bloodied lip, the captured pilot doesn’t seem fazed as he addresses his five cellmates.

“I didn’t spend six years in officer’s school to get eaten by a dragon-man on my first transport job,” he says, pulling a small rectangle out of the interior pocket of his jacket. Is that a…cassette player?! This space-jock has watched to much Guardians of the Galaxy.

Several of the cellmates—and most of the humans in the brig—are also soldiers, and they’re sick of watching their numbers dwindle day by day as their companions are taken to satisfy vicious Varknoss appetites. If Rowland is clever enough to get them out alive, they’re in.

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This is the part of the video where we come in. Three days have passed since Rowland was taken prisoner. His commanders don’t even know he’s missing yet. But it turns out that Rowland’s little cassette player also picks up radio waves, and he knows exactly what we’re about the see on this camera, which is affixed to the exterior of the Varknoss ship, keeping watch over an airlock. Technology, huh? 

Everything seems really slow in space, so if you really closely, you’ll see a giant silver and white bullet floating across the corner of the feed. Yep, that’s the USSS Argo, completely unaware that they’re skimming the skies several hundred miles above a Varknoss ship containing dozens of illegal human prisoners. 

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We’re back in the cell with Chris Rowland, and he’s in action. In one minute, the Varknoss guard is going to deliver food, and the prisoners are ready to escape. Rowland is wearing the standard-issue military jackets of the three soldiers in the cell with him, plus his own. Why? It’s unclear, but he looks like a navy marshmallow man.

The Varknoss opens the door, and the prisoners press themselves to the far wall, but then Rowland jumps forward!

Smoke fills the air as the Varknoss lashes out with fire, but the flames have no effect of Rowland as he wrestles the reptilian alien to the ground. The layers of flame-retardant military jackets protect him. 

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While Rowland occupies the roaring guard, the rest of the prisoners stream into the hallway. Once all 46 humans are free, they dash out of the brig. Rowland disengages from his foe and sprints after them, followed closely by the alien.

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Clever Rowland chose to escape during Varknoss dinner time, so the ship’s hallways are empty as the long line of humans hurtles toward the nearest escape hatch. Rowland is still at the end of the line, and the Varknoss guard is so, so close. Close enough to grab him.

The pilot suddenly thrusts his arm into the air and uses his thumb to click a button on the cassette player he holds aloft. Funky music starts playing, with a catchy bass riff and tasty guitar licks. This man knows his enemy. The Varknoss soldier suddenly stops to dance to the groove. That’s their biggest weakness: they love music, and it holds an almost magical power over them. The Varknoss keeps dancing until Rowland and his speaker are too far away to hear. Then, the spell is broken, and the ugly creature races after his quarry.

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When the Varknoss gets close to the prisoners again, Rowland blasts the next song. Once again, the alien has to stop to dance. The lieutenant repeats this process until his group finally reaches the escape pods.

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Varknoss escape pods are strange. They can connect together in a long chain to help an escaping population stay together, which will make Rowland’s task much easier, as only three people can fit in each pod. When it’s Rowland’s turn to board the sixteenth pod, he tosses the cassette player at the Varknoss’s feet, leaving it trapped in a dancing frenzy.

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A long, straight chain of escape pods slowly crosses the distance between the Varknoss ship and the Argo. By this time, the Argo has noticed the enemy ship and hailed the pods. The Varknoss ship doesn’t stand a chance as the warship turns to rescue Rowland and his friends.

Author’s Note:

This story is based on “Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light from the Sun” from West African folklore. In the original tale, Anansi and his son, Kweku Tsin, get captured by a dragon along with many other people, and Kweku helps them escape by throwing a ladder up to the gods and playing a fiddle to district the dragon and make him dance. In the end, the gods turn Kweku into the Sun because of his good deed. I changed the setting of my story because I’ve been wanting to write a story set in outer space, and this seemed like a good one to do it for. The Varknoss are a dragon-like alien race, meant to equate to the dragon in the original tale. Chris Rowland represents Kweku, and like the African hero, he is clever and quick-thinking. I still wanted to have the aspect of music to distract the dragon, so I threw in some Guardians of the Galaxy.

I wrote my story from the point of view of a person transcribing the events as seen through security cameras. This technique is inspired by one of my favorite book series, The Illuminae Files, which are written as a collection a files, many of them being security footage transcriptions. I thought it would be a creative and high-tech way of telling the story. I hope you enjoyed!


West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917). Web source.

Image 1: Milky Way galaxy. Source – Pxhere.

Image 2: Cassette tape. Source – Flickr.

Image 3: Artistic rendition of Earth in space. Source – Pixabay.


Week 9 Reading Notes: West Africa, Part B


Famous Last Words: Road Trip!


  1. Megan Edmundson

    Hi Erin!
    So I really enjoyed your story! I liked how the narrator was telling the story from looking at different video recordings and transcribing them. Also enjoyed the reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy! I also read this set of stories this week on West African Folklore, and I enjoyed your high tech outer space spin on it. I am only curious about what made the Varknoss dislike humans so much and what they did to torture them?

  2. Julia Ngo

    Hi Erin, I liked that you told the story from different perspectives through the different camera’s recordings! It really let me get a grasp on the whole thing from all angles, which was really cool. Your author’s note was very developed and helped me see how your story came to be, even though I did not read the original reference story. Overall, it was very well-written and enjoyable!

  3. Charlton Nwaefulu

    Hey Erin,
    This was a creative story that you have written, Excellent Job! I like your use of imagery along with the in-depth author’s note that you left at the end. I got a broader perspective of the story yours was based on. I noticed the Guardians of the Galaxy referenced in the story which I thought was pretty clever. Again, Excellent Job.

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