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Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut #TBR

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don’t let the ease of reading fool you – Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author’s experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut’s other works, but the book’s basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy – and humor.

I don’t remember who actually recommended this book to me, or where I saw it. I think the words “Slaughterhouse” stood out to me more than anything haha being a horror lover and all. Not necessarily that kind of horror, but one that is said to strike home in various ways. Looking forward to reading this book.

image of Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II.

Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat’s Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973)


Friday Fiction: 2055 – Assimilation

The helicopter silently glided over dilapidated buildings stretching into the distance. It seemed to be a city of some sort but one that seemed foreign to Abie. He turned towards the man sitting opposite him who was also looking out at the destroyed city. Akinyi Cisse of Juluo. Here. One of them.

“I guess it is quite difficult to believe that a statesman would be one of them, as you so kindly put it.” Akinyi said, turning to face Abie. “Then again, you would think all these movies would make you look towards leadership first in the event of alien encounter.”

“It’s the most obvious.”


“So what’s your plan?” Abie looked back out into the open space. The city was fading into brown grassland.


“Oh… I thought you only employed ‘voluntary hosts'”

“As you are of course.” Abie remained silent. Now that he was once again faced with the reality of an alien being lodged in his brain, he couldn’t help imagine what its intentions were. It also tried save him. To help him escape and like a fool he let his own judgement fail them.

<I’ve also kept you in control this entire time.> The voice in his head said

“For what purpose? What reason do you have for letting me be?”

<To show you that we are not all the same.>

“Are you not?”

“I cannot speak for you, but we are.” Akinyi said. The grassland was making way to a fenced off area, tar breaking the monotony of grass where a compound came into view. Building sand, white stones and various machinery where scattered around the building where half of it was still under construction. It looked like a warehouse of some sort but it was difficult to say what it was for, considering the barren landscape around it. It was too obvious. The helicopter began to descend.


There were no soldiers or personnel when the helicopter landed on an empty parking bay. In the distance the sun was peeking from the horizon in an orange haze that lit up the area, making their shadows long. Only Akinyi and Abie stepped off the helicopter. Akinyi led the way with Abie following close behind. He knew he couldn’t escape, where would he go. He had seen no vehicles other than the construction vehicles and with that he wasn’t going to get anywhere fast.

“Where are we going?” Akinyi lifted his hand and twirled a finger. Behind them, the helicopter started up silently, the gust of wind it generated the only thing giving it away. Abie turned around and watched it fly off in the same direction they had come. Reinforcements? Was it fetching the creature he had shot in the guise of his old flame? Was it dead? He doubted it.

“Oh don’t worry, it will take more than just bullets to kill us, and yes, it is fetching our mutual friend.”

“For what? Where are you taking me?”

“You will see…”

Akinyi led him into the warehouse, where Abie noticed the large black and white billboard announcing the building of a mall. The name of it had been torn off on purpose it seemed, and only the date survived the tear: 2058.

“A mall huh?”

“Mall” Akinyi said, raising his hands to create quotation marks in the air.

“So what is it then?”

“A mall, obviously, but also a base of operations where we will push our plans forward.

“The assimilation plans.”


Abie wondered why Akinyi was telling him all of this, basically giving him the plan. If he were to escape he would have vital information should he go public. If he were to go public. If he could. Perhaps they would wipe his memory or force him to join. That made sense. He was already a “voluntary host” so it would make sense.

The inside of the “mall” was brightly lit, the skeleton frame stretching into the sky where the next floor would begin. Their footsteps crunched sand underfoot as they approached an elevator.

“An elevator. Of course.”

“We took most of our ideas from all the ‘alien invasion’ books and films that you humans created. I must say you are all very creative.”

Abie could only nod as they entered the elevator and Akinyi pressed the single button. Abie felt the slight lurch of the thing, it was an old fashioned elevator rather than the quiet modern ones. He thought of the invasion. What more would they need when humanity had given them all they needed, only this time there would be no hero to save them. No magic virus to destroy the super alien computer. No hero to foil the alien plot. Or perhaps he was the saviour, in the right place to foil whatever plot was in the pipelines; but what plot was it. He would need more information.

The elevator stopped.

“You do realize I can hear your every thought… right?” Akinyi asked. He stepped out of the elevator as the doors swung open. Abie remained still.

“There is no hero in this story my friend. Come along, we are almost at our destination.”

He followed. The alien in his head was transmitting his thoughts. It was so obvious how did he miss it. So caught up in the events happening around him that he didn’t think of that one vital thing when it was so obvious.

<Very obvious> The voice replied to him.

<Why didn’t you say?>

<I was prevented from speaking up. Don’t you think I would have tried?>

<I don’t know what you would have done.>

<You still don’t trust me?>

Abie wasn’t sure. He could. He should perhaps but… his thoughts were open. Bare. They walked down the narrow corridor, lit by gas lamps that Abie had only seen in history pictures.

“Are you allergic to modern technology?”

“Modern technology is traceable. Electricity. Wires. We don’t need any distractions right now.”

“Distractions from what?”

Akinyi didn’t answer and instead stepped aside to let Abie walk in front of him.

“You’re not going to knock me out are you?” He smiled. Wary.

“Of course not. We’re here aren’t we.”

“Hmmm.” The corridor ended at a metal door that swept open when he approached it. Abie stood for a long while. Unaware that his mouth was hanging open as he took in the sight.

“Abie Prinsloo. Welcome to the assimilation.”

Friday Fiction: 2055 – Hosts

earth from space


“Hallo liefie. Kom sit.”

Abie stood still for a very long time, gazing at the rolling sea-sand curls framing the pale face before him. Soft, hazel eyes he’d fallen in love with gazed back at him; a hand was raised to gesture at the chair in front of him.

“Ana-marie. What…” the words felt heavy in his mouth, weighing his bottom lip down in shock.

“Abie, please, sit.”

Abie eventually shuffled into the seat and fell into it hard. His arms stayed still at his sides, the heavy pistol slipping from his fingers to clatter onto the floor.

“What are you doing here?” He managed to ask. His mind was still reeling from the sight of the woman before him, a face from a memory that still haunted him so long after its occurrence.

“I came to find you. To save you.” She smiled as she sat forward in the chair, placing both her arms on the table so that her open hands were pointed towards Abie. He looked at them, afraid to hold them even as they seemed to be pleading to be held.

“You were captured. You were…” His eyes stared at the pale hands held out to him, he could almost feel their soft warmth. At his sides, his arms had begun to shake but he didn’t seem to be aware.

“Here I am Abie. That was the past and we are here in the now.”

His arms lifted, drawn to the outstretched hands before him of the girl he’d once thought he would marry. The girl who had been there before he’d joined the army as another soldier in the UAC. The girl who… the girl who…

<The girl who died!> 

Abie jolted back in his seat in shock, sending his body and chair tumbling back in one swift motion.

<She died Abie! This is not her, do you not sense its presence?>

Abie was attempting to breathe following his fall, the wind had been knocked out of him and as he lifted his eyes, he found that Ana-Marie was standing beside him, only it wasn’t completely Ana-Marie; from her waist down she was a mass of wet, grey tentacles. He wanted to scream. Instead, a wheeze escaped his open mouth.

“The shock wears off soon enough, and as a soldier you should be able to get over it fairly quickly.”

Abie’s eyes fell away from Ana-Marie’s face and down towards the slithering limbs as they slid back towards the chair. He could still hear them swish and suckle even when they were out of sight behind the table.

<What the heck is that thing? What the heck is it?> Abie cried at the voice in his head. It was frustratingly silent once again. He managed to sit up, his breath coming in better as he spotted the pistol on the floor ahead of him. He picked his chair up while he was sitting, grabbing the pistol on his way back onto the chair, careful to keep the weapon hidden. The Ana-Marie-creature looked at him in mild amusement.

<If you’re going to help, you need to speak!> Abie whispered into his brain. The voice remained silent.

“It can’t hear you. I’m making sure of that.” Ana-Marie said but the voice came out in the same monotonous tone, both out loud as well as in his head. “Also, I would put away that toy, it has no effect on me.”

Abie looked down at his shaking hand, and shook his head

“It gives me comfort…”

“Well good, then perhaps you won’t be as pathetic as your soldier friends down below yes?” Abie lifted his head,

“Who are you… what are you?”

“Ah for that, we would have to travel light-years away to an ancient planetary speck on the outskirts of the milky-way, and we just don’t have the time. Instead I’ll give you answers to questions you’ve blatantly avoided. First and foremost, we are an alien race. Extra terrestrial. Hence the tentacles as you so aptly described my limbs.”

Abie continued to stare, his mind listening. Absorbing.

“Secondly, we are not a hostile race as you may be inclined to believe. It seems that America has fed much of society’s expectations when it comes to extra terrestrials and their quest for Earth’s domination.”

“So what is it that you want? How can I trust anything that you say?”

“Well you aren’t dead, for one, and secondly, you haven’t seen or heard anything about an alien invasion have you? And let me guess what you’re thinking; we wouldn’t allow our presence to be known until it was too late for mankind to do anything about it?”

The creature didn’t need to read Abie’s mind to know what he was thinking of course. It waited for Abie to respond and when he didn’t, it continued,

“Currently there are about… five of us… on Earth, including the one in your brain right now. We were summoned. It seems that the UAC is in need of assistance when it comes to bringing peace across its vast, beautiful plain…”

“And you and your alien squad are going to unite Africa peacefully? No hostile take over? Nothing?”

“Well I wouldn’t say nothing. Everything comes at a price.”

“And what price are we to pay for your so called peaceful involvement?” The creature that was Ana-Marie smiled.

“Voluntary hosts.”

Abie stared hard at the creature before him, no longer distracted by its facade even though it unsettled him,

“Will you change appearance please, I can’t handle looking at my dead ex?”

“I fear you wouldn’t get over the shock of what you will see if I were to do that. Ana-Marie here is to pacify you, make who I am more acceptable.”

Abie nodded as though he understood even though he didn’t. He stared hard at the body before him, taking it all in, trying to find anything that would give away the creature’s true self

“This is a mental projection. I am not wearing her body as you once experienced with the little girl before, I have not found a suitable body to attach myself to, as one has attached to you.”

Abie remembered the voice in his head.

“Who are you?” he asked the voice.

<Run Abie! Run!> The voice quivered.

“Why is it always telling me to run?”

“I fear it is trying to…”

Abie’s arm shot up suddenly out of his control, the pistol gripped tight and sure. His body rose on its own accord and fired two quick shots into Ana-Marie’s face as it moved around her. Ana-Marie lurched back, the chair tilting backwards until it was impossibly leaning on its two back legs without falling. Abie saw the top half shimmer slightly, a sliver of grey waning in and out of existence in the space between Ana-Marie’s gaping face and the floor. His fingers pulled the trigger twice and then they were pushing out of the other door and into a long, dark corridor.

“What the hell are you doing!?”

“Saving you!?”

“From what?”

“What do you mean from what!? Did you really think this whole thing is about voluntary hosts?”

Abie let the words sweep through his mind. He wasn’t sure what he believed anymore. They barged through a heavy door at the end of the corridor while behind them, they could already feel the soldiers losing the hold Abie had over them. Ana-Marie wasn’t chasing them.

<We are all of the same mind, the five of us on this planet. That is how our planet works.> The voice continued. By now they were inside an office block of sorts with bright florescent lights lighting their way. It was eerily quiet

<A call reached our planet and we were tasked with investigating the commotion. What we had not anticipated, however, was the human tribal group standing before one of our communication pillars, in what was once our ancient calling ritual. We were summoned alright, but not by the UAC.>

“You were on our planet before?” Abie was suddenly feeling overwhelmed

<Of course. This time around we decided not to stay, to tell our overseers that it was a false alarm. So far from our planet, we found that we could influence each other’s thoughts as one; this was something only our overseers could do. One of us overpowered the rest and sought to remain on the planet as an overseer.>

Abie was beginning to catch on. The one in Ana-Marie’s body was calling the shots outside of home planet, and now was clearly trying to “oversee” the UAC under the guise of voluntary hosts.

<That’s exactly it!>

“So what now?”

The voice remained silent as they pushed through the doorway at the end of the corridor, and ran right into a squadron of soldiers with rifles pointed at them. Statesman Akinyi Cisse, of Joluo, the Eastern sector of the UAC, stood before the men in a shiny, silver, three-piece men’s suit. Behind them, a large helicopter stood waiting.

“Abie Prinsloo, so glad to finally meet my fellow host.” Akinyi stepped aside and gestured towards the waiting helicopter.


Understanding that it wasn’t so much a request as it was an instruction, Abie walked towards the helicopter; this was turning out to be much bigger than he’d thought.

Although not inspired by the prompt this time (I actually wrote this story yesterday), it fit the theme so…

Friday Flash Fiction: War

Words: 100
Title: War

On Friday everything changed.
One moment the sun blazed uncomfortably over our heads as the school principal explained the day’s proceedings during assembly. The next moment the entire school was in uproar, as a quake shook the ground and an ear-piercing explosion threw us to the floor.
In the chaos that ensued, fighter jets painted the skies with black smoke as mechanical voices echoed loud in the commotion,
The voice continued. The explosions continued. I stared up at the receding Joburg skyline. War.

Rajat Narula

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