Monthly Archives: August 2013

Drummer

The longboat pulled across the finish line almost a mile ahead of the nearest competitor. Grif, sitting with his drums just in front of the prow, kept up his steady beat as the rowers brought the boat to the shore. It bumped against the pier and the crew jumped ashore, elated from the victory. Grif clambered out of the boat to see his friend, Weeib, waiting for him, a smug grin joining his ears.

“It worked!” cried Weeib. “With your new drumming patterns the crew worked like a fast, well-oiled machine!”

Grif smiled. “The world is ours,” he said.

They started in the factories. To Grif’s beat, clothes were stitched at unprecedented speeds, toys were assembled. Then crops were harvested, armies marched. Raw material was dug from the ground, shipped and processed and shipped and packaged and shipped. The whole world began to march to an unrelenting new rhythm.

Decades later, Grif and Weeib knelt before the World King to accept a large golden medal. Thanks to them, the world had produced more things this year than any other in history. They turned to face the adulation of the assembly.

Thousands of people, overly-dressed in ill-fitting, mass-produced clothes and weighed down by trinkets, sat exhausted in their seats. Even in this auditorium their feet were lost in familiar piles of rubbish. Soft, polite applause floated gently from tired hands.

“You call that clapping?!” yelled Grif, walking over to his drums. “You can do better! One…two…three…four!”

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Point of View

Following a comment yesterday from Gabriela Blandy, today I’m playing with points of view. Here is the same story presented in two different styles: the first with as many points of view as possible, the second with just one. Please let me know in the comments which you think works best, and why.

– – –

“The winner is… Professor Wilbur Ibek!”

The crowd roared its appreciation. Many leapt to their feet, hands clapping a hailstorm of enthusiasm. Cheers erupted all around.

Professor Ibek stood awkwardly. He began to walk up the aisle to the podium, ears deafened by the applause, mind reeling from the announcement.

His son, Stephen, felt a lump in his throat. The toil, the stress, the risk – it had come to this. It had payed off. He caught the eye of his mother, Maria.

Maria, scientist herself, but also ex-wife, was crying. It had not been a happy marriage, there was much to regret. The work had taken its toll. But at least there was this moment for the family of three.

The professor walked past Duncan Mayhew. Mayhew saw his rival soaking in the adulation of the masses, and he felt his blood boil. Just two more months, a few thousand dollars and another publication and the award would have been his. What now? Obscurity?

Susanna Laven, journalist, sat on the edge of her seat. Either way, she would have the front page tomorrow. Her career was made.

Professor Ibek climbed unsteadily up to the podium and faced the audience. The applause continued for a moment, then abated and an expectant silence fell.

Ibek fought back tears and cleared his throat. His life flashed through his mind. He wondered: How did I become this? How did I get here?

He cleared his throat again.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I lied.”

– – –

As if in a dream, he heard the announcer say: “The winner is… Professor Wilbur Ibek!”

Around him, the crowd roared its appreciation. Many leapt to their feet, hands clapping a hailstorm of enthusiasm.

He stood awkwardly. With ears deafened by the applause and mind reeling, he began to walk up the aisle to the podium.

He saw his son, Stephen, in the crowd. What he had put him through – toil, stress, risk – it had come to this. Had it payed off?

He caught sight of his ex-wife, Maria. She was crying. It had not been a happy marriage, there was much to regret. The work had taken its toll. But at least there was this moment for the family of three.

He walked past his rival, Duncan Mayhew. He saw a forced smile upon Mayhew’s lips. The poor guy must be raging inside.

He saw that journalist – Susanna something? Boy, would she have the front page tomorrow. Her career was made.

Ibek climbed unsteadily up to the podium and faced the audience. The applause continued for a moment, then abated and an expectant silence fell.

He fought back tears and cleared his throat. His life flashed through his mind. He wondered: How did I become this? How did I get here?

He cleared his throat again.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I lied.”

Not Always Right

“A dozen eggs, Mr. Sudteen,” said Mrs. Thorndike. She plopped a large basket upon the counter.

“Right away, Mrs. Thorndike,” said Mr. Sudteen. He decided to try charm. “Would that be a baker’s dozen?” Wink.

She bristled. “I have no time for games,” she said, curt tone and furrowed brow. “Mrs. Lutton will be over at three and I need the pie ready. A dozen eggs, right away.”

“Would you like the cheap ones? Only a dozen left.”

“Of course, I always have the cheap ones. Now stop wasting time!” she said.

Mr. Sudteen carefully placed one dozen eggs into her basket. She threw the coins down in front of him and stormed out.

Thorndike harrumphed crossly down the road, lugging the basket along, muttering. She turned the corner and promptly collided with little Jackson from number four, riding too fast on his bicycle. The basket went flying.

“You little ratbag!” she screamed at the hastily fleeing child. “I shall tell your mother!”

Eggs lay all over the road, tiny fragments of shell among yolk that glittered in the sun as it ran between the stones. She grabbed the basket and seethed back to the shop.

Mr. Sudteen!” she yelled. “Another dozen eggs right away!”

“We’ve only got the expensive sort left.”

“Fine!” she spat. “Bring them here!” Many more coins hit the counter.

When she had gone, Sudteen went out the back of his shop. Little Jackson was sitting there on his bicycle. Sudteen tossed him a shilling.

Second Person

You stand behind the counter, waiting as your customer vacillates between jewels. Her mind lost in choices, you look through the glass. There it sits, the most expensive of all. Sparkling little shards linked by silvery thread. Beauty beyond compare, price above the clouds. How could she miss it? How could she not feel the same desire that burns in you?

She’s old money. You recognise the type. Never had to want for anything. Never felt unfulfilled desire. A hint of fear flows from her – fear that if she lost everything she had, she wouldn’t know how to get more. Fragile rich.

You know no such fear. No fear at all, even when the man in the mask comes through the door. He shouts, intimidates, customers whimper. He waves a metal bat. You stare into his dark green eyes as he smashes open the glass.

You obey store policy. Stand out of the way. No heroics. It’s all insured anyway. Not worth your life.

– – –

The next day is a Saturday. You go and sit in the coffee shop. Read the paper.

He arrives, smiles, sits next to you. You stare into his dark green eyes as his fingers slip you an envelope under the table.

“Did you read the news?” he asks, gesturing to the paper. “Police suspect an inside job.”

You smile. The envelope is open in your lap. Your fingers are caressing sparkling little shards.

“Yes,” you say. “They’re looking for the second person.”

Taking Your Time

I live in that hole in the ground, the crater, now. It used to be a city. You know… bright lights and cars and noise. Beautiful, in a way. I prefer it now though. The trees came back eventually. It’s all green.

This is where the first weapon hit. So bright, so fast. Many died right there and then. For those who remained, the question seemed to be about blame. It was from that far-off place! It was some nation! Some category, even! They must die!

The answer seemed simpler to me: somewhere, somebody pushed a button. Maybe that person was ordered to do so, and betrayed their ability to make their own decision. Had sleepless nights. But eventually that person died, just like everybody else.

See, these weapons had a poisonous aspect. It got into the food. So the food killed all the people, everywhere. All apart from one… me!

I mutated. Regenerating telomeres or somesuch. No genetic degradation, ever. No old age, no disease, no need for food. Forever nineteen, at least in body.

Don’t think of it as a tragedy. It was a transference. Seven billion people couldn’t be trusted with life, so I got it all. I get to live all of your lives. I’m about halfway through.

How am I spending the time, you might ask?

I’m building a rocketship. I’m going to explore the beyond. Leave the trees to grow in peace.

I think you’d agree, I’m better at this than you were.

Friends

Graves jogged to a halt, put his hands behind his head and breathed in cool, welcome air. Nat was leaning against a nearby tree, taking gulps from a bottle of water. She waved.

“Not bad for an old man,” she said.

Graves laughed. “Thanks. Good pace.”

“Where’re the others?” she asked, offering the bottle.

Graves took the water and poured a little over his head. “Mags was not far behind me. Not sure about Deck.” He looked over his shoulder and saw Mags trotting towards the tree, a big grin adorning a red face.

She stopped, laughed, then leant over and put her hands on her knees. “Good,” she said. “Loved it when you surprised the dog,” waggling her finger at Graves, “very funny.”

Nat stood up and beckoned to the other two. “Deck must be having a hard time,” she said. “Let’s go and find him.” The others nodded.

They walked slowly back along the path. A few minutes later they caught sight their friend. He was jogging slowly towards them, face screwed up in pain, hand clutching his side. He waved, too short of breath.

They formed a line either side of him, and began to jog, matching his pace.

“Look at you sporty people,” he gasped. “What am I doing?”

“You’re becoming one of us,” said Graves.

“You’re pushing your limits,” said Nat.

“You’re making us proud,” said Mags.

They arrived at the tree. Deck hugged it and laughed. The others splashed water over him.

“I love you guys,” he said.

Overly-Verbose Formiciform Mutualist Silliness

Mercilo Daviss, writer by nature and therefore incurably curious, greatly enjoyed peeking into those perpendicular passions in fields obscure to many. It was this predilection that brought an invitation from Mrs. Michaela Agnew, myrmecologist. It was an invitation to spend a quiet afternoon, as Mrs. Agnew put it, “staring at the ground”.

Over cups of green tea they watched an endless formicine movement of matériel one foot from their feet, the conversation drifting amongst various matters.

“How is your writing proceeding?” said Michaela.

“Enjoying it immensely,” said Mercilo, “and delighted to entertain more than a few score of wonderful readers.”

“I think your habit could learn from ants like these,” said Michaela. “With ants, watching one explore the world in front of them is a delight. But watching a crowd operating in concert is a marvel beyond. So who else is there, Mercilo? Others must be writing in a similar vein.”

“Just so,” came the reply. “For one, a gentleman in Brussels by the name of Dieter Rogiers. He creates, each day, in 300 words, some entertaining romp that stirs something within the reader. He writes at 300 Stories”.

“Who else?”

“Well there’s Thomas Heasman-Hunt at serialwritist. He does longer shots with a fantastical flavour.”

“That’s two,” said Michaela. “Any more?”

“Oh plenty,” said Mercilo. “Many good reads at Rebekah Postupak’s Flash! Friday and at FridayFlash.org.”

The ants, listening intently to this discussion, passed word to their queen. She mused, but did not worry. The humans were smart, but they could not stop the Plan. Nothing could.