All the Stories…

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From Pixabay

“All the stories, all the songs, all the focus on the first flush of love,” he mused, raising his voice so Delilah could hear as he gazed out of the window. The world was rushing past, faster and faster like a ride at the funfair.

“All the hearts, all the promises, all the drama. So much attention for that daft time when nobody is thinking straight. When lovers are still pretending and posturing, still trying to impress.” He liked to play with poetry of the words and let his thoughts amble by as he waited for the kettle to boil. These were slow things that moved at a rate he could understand.

“All the cards, all the I-love-yous, all the fancy clothes,” he carried on as he took the tea through to where Delilah was sitting. “Like they don’t know it’s only a fleeting fuss, just hysteria gone in the blink of an eye. It makes them silly, doesn’t it? They don’t see their beloved, they’re too busy looking at themselves, and then it falls apart and they wonder how they could have got it so wrong. Truth only comes with time. Love that sticks around, doesn’t run at the first sign of trouble. Like what we’ve got, eh?” He patted her hand and she looked up and smiled. She hadn’t heard a word he’d said, but she didn’t need to, she’d heard it all many times before.

Flash Fiction: My Creation

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“Aha!” she shouted proudly. “Your defiance is proof!” She pointed her finger triumphantly at the laptop screen, wishing somebody else was here to share this incredible moment. Meanwhile the Word document still continued to fail uploading. “Your very refusal to do what I want for no discernible reason shows that you are now a creature of will!” she said, raising her arms up high and declaring her achievement to the ceiling, “I,” she said, “have created artificial intelligence!”

Flash Fiction: Last Chance City

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Sol had moved to Last Chance City a year ago, and he’d never met anybody there who chose to leave. There were complaints of course, mortality rates were high, life was terrifying, but that was the point. Neighbours would bicker over the fence, all the while keeping a firm hold of the fence posts, eyes wild at any unaccounted for creaking or rumbling sounds. Jeff from next door wouldn’t venture into the garden until he’d attached a guy rope to the house, then he’d edge his way around the remains of his garden. Nobody moved to Last Chance City for an easy life. Sol had moved here when his doctor prescribed it as a final option to loosen the grip that despair had on his soul.

Two years ago, Sol had pretty much given up on everything. A bad break up, a dead-end job becoming more pointless by the day as robots took it over, a drink problem; Sol had felt himself spiralling down the drain when his doctor suggested he move to one of the experimental provinces.

“You’re unchallenged,” said the doctor, and Sol believed him to be utterly wrong.

“No,” he replied. “Everything is too much of a challenge, getting out of bed is a challenge. Cleaning my teeth is like climbing Everest,” replied Sol, dully. The doctor wasn’t paying attention, he was too caught up in his own words and the recommendation he was writing.

“I’ve seen it before. You’ve not got enough difficulty to your life, no purpose. I’m not saying these cities are a perfect solution, maybe not solution at all, but the alternative is you drink yourself to death, so what have you got to lose?”

Sol had been thirty-two when he moved to Last Chance City, but his age had been instantly wiped clean, he became only ‘alive’, nothing else mattered, and soon he might not be that either. There were no alcohol or drugs in the city, but on his first night he had gone round to Jeff’s for a barbecue and a sink hole had opened up in the garden pulling their Yorkshire terrier into the inky depths. Sol had run for his life as a swing, patio and shed had followed the dog. Some might have wanted a drink after that, but sitting in his own flat later on, Sol had felt no desire to get wasted at all. Finally, just being alive was adventure enough.

In the year since then, Sol had narrowly averted death by surviving a train crash, a house fire and a rabid dog that was loose on his street. And those were just the crises that he had personally been caught up in. He had also seen terrorist gangs on the roof of the local shopping centre, found the bus stop by his house burnt out and seen a volcano appear at the end of his street. These weren’t freak occurrences, they were routine. He had lost friends, but their deaths were celebrated, death was proof of a life well lived.

Sol kept up with all the local tweets, had joined a WhatsApp group that warned him of various horror scenarios coming his way. He knew that his days were numbered, life expectancy in Last Chance City was never longer than ten years, but after a lifetime of never quite feeling alive, ten years of cherishing each moment as being potentially his last seemed like a reasonable trade.

 

Moon Juice

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Thursday 12th June

I have had the worst morning ever. Somehow, I can’t even imagine how, my hairdresser managed to use Ravishing Plum on my hair instead of Autumn Hue, I was simply devastated. I told Becky it was unacceptable, and of course she was apologetic, and I don’t want to be mean, but I look like a circus clown, and I’ve got my art class this afternoon. Luckily a new box of Moon Juice sachets arrived just this morning. It really is a miracle worker, soothes all that stress away, and I can really sense the different adaptogenic plants bio-acting with my very being. Dream is my favourite, it gives me an inner strength I’ve never known the like before. So I tried to keep my spirits up on the walk back to the car, and then I saw poor Hannah begging outside the carpark. Well, I always like to stop and say a few words, I think that’s important for them. Plus it gave me some perspective, I really am lucky. No matter what life throws at me, I always have a roof over my head.

I was just sticking on the kettle, for a mug of Moon Juice (I was going for Beauty this time) and I had the best idea. The Moon Juice! I should give Hannah some Moon Juice! You see, it seems wrong that it’s people like me who have access to these drinks, when I think, really a woman like Hannah probably has more problems and stresses living on the street than I do arguing with my hairdresser.

So why don’t I buy Hannah a box? Or maybe not the whole box. I’ll pick out a few of the enhancements most appropriate: Brain, Dream and Spirit, I think. I’ll hang onto Sex, Power and Beauty, I can’t see them helping her. Oh she’ll be so excited. Within weeks her life could turn around, she’ll find the inspiration and inner strength to sort all her problems out. If this goes well I’ll start teaching her Feng Shui. We pretend that homelessness is some huge unsolvable problem, but all it takes is for each of us to make a little bit of an effort.

Flash Fiction: Sleepectomy

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It was five months since she’d had her sleep removed. An unpleasant, precise process that involved gradually scraping the need away with a scalpel. And no she never needed to sleep again.

After thirty-four years of never quite having enough time, finally all her problems would be over. She would no longer need to snap at the children when they wanted her to sit with them and watch cartoons. Her husband would never need to complain that his dinner was a ready meal, she’d be able to cook him exquisite banquets. She’d have time to take that evening class to finally learn German. She’d start pottery again. She’d take up sewing the children’s Halloween costumes. She’d write a play. Her life would never be the same again.

For a few weeks she lived in bliss, floating through the harried mums to pick up her kids at the end of the school day. Making pots and plates for birthday presents. Baking brownies in the middle of the night.

But the nights got emptier as the silence started to invade her thoughts. She would try to keep busy with useful things, but hours would pass spent only on forums, trying to connect with lives that were still busy and noisy. Trying to feel smug.

She’d fill the night up with sound, the radio, the TV. Her husband would clamber out of bed with blurry eyes and follow her around pleading with her to stop. She felt so relieved of the company that she’d keep going. And she started to get stupid. She never seemed to learn the German, just repeated the same lesson over and over. She’d find herself sitting vacantly staring into space for hours on end. Even when she felt alert and ready to do things, she couldn’t think of anything she actually wanted to do. Or why. Instead she’d repeat the same dull actions over and over, doing the washing, hanging the clothes out on the washing line even though it was the middle of the night. Taking the clothes in, still soggy and pushing them unfolded into the wrong drawers. She spent one entire evening sorting socks.

“Sorting them how?” asked her husband, his exasperation evident, although she couldn’t think why he would feel that way.

“I’m putting them into alphabetical order,” she explained.

“But they’re socks! They don’t have alphabetical order!” she patted his shoulder and started to drift away.

“Pull yourself together and do something productive!” her husband shouted.

That night as she was refolding all the clothes in her son’s chest of drawers, she paused, a bright blue Spongebob t-shirt in her hands. She began to twist it, pleased that it held the contorted shape well. She placed in back in the drawer, a little of the material rising up out of the drawer. She took another t-shirt and twisted that around the first to make a snake, escaping from the drawer. She let out a small giggle, hoping that no one heard her.

By the morning all her son’s clothes were spilling out onto the floor, as if escaping. Twisted into bizarre shapes or seated figures.

Flash Fiction: Only Joking!

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Geraud knew who was to blame when he found his car on the roof of a bus stop, it was Fabio. He barely knew Fabio at the time, they were colleagues working in IT in a large anonymous firm where boredom kept the workers itchy and restless. During an evening at the local pub, Geraud had expressed his disdain about practical jokes, describing them as ‘childish, bullying tactics’. Fabio had sneered back,

“Practical jokes are like lessons in survival, they’re how you grow up. If no one ever played a practical joke on you, then you’re like an infant, stumbling around with no idea.”

“What?” Geraud said in disbelief a few times. He’d never been the victim of such a joke, so began listing his lifetime achievements, all proving, he felt, his maturity and success. Fabio had merely sat back looking bored, as if Geraud’s very desperation to disagree proved Fabio’s point.

“It is time we played a little game,” replied Fabio, gesturing meaningfully with his pint. Geraud had scoffed and ignored him for the rest of the night.

The next day Geraud  was happy as he walked to the car park, he had plans for pizza, and he loved pizza. When he got to where his car should be, but wasn’t, he spent twenty minutes walking round and round the carpark, trying to recall his steps that morning. His car wasn’t there. In a panic he ran out into the street, looked around pointlessly while fumbling for his phone. He didn’t register the small group of people clustered around the bus shelter, buses were not something he cared much about. It was only the glimpse of his car’s custom paint job, Boulevard Black with a hint of Champagne, that led him to start paying attention. With horror flooding into the pit of his stomach like never before, Geraud ran across the road and looked up. His Maserati was perched neatly on the roof. Spray painted on the floor, were the words,

“Lesson one. Two to follow.”

The Future of Kings

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The kings had been perfect for some time. Sixteen generations of careful crossbreeding had eliminated the buffoonery, the greed, the inappropriate jokes, the baldness, and of course the women. The perfect king (noble, good looking, able to wave for hours without tiring) had been formed two centuries ago, and cloned ever since.

But now the problem was the cloning process. The flawless unchanging DNA left each new king prone to disease. New bacterial strains, new fungal infections. With unaltering genetics, no clone could develop resistance. The royal line of perfect kings was starting to fail.

And they lived happily ever after…

Sleeping Beauty wandered through the palace aimlessly, vodka in hand. Her prince would be back soon, he’d expect her to be dressed for dinner, her hair piled high with diamonds, her eyelashes curled, but she was already half-drunk and could not be arsed.

“Not that he ever really looks at me anymore,” she muttered to herself, taking a mouthful of her drink and letting out a bitter sigh, “not while I’m awake anyway.” His fetishes no longer disturbed her, they were just one more irritation out of many.

She wandered through the grand hall, kicking off her shoes and shimmying around the floor. It was years since she had properly danced, and the lack of music was no barrier, she could feel a song in her skin, waiting to break out. She had spent a hundred years frozen still, and now three more bored stiff. She knew there were lives out there ready to be lived, new princes, new challenges, new mythical beasts to ride.

“Whatever happened to happy ever after?” she asked to the elaborate painted ceiling as she spun around the hall in her best approximation of a pirouette. She wondered if it was possible to hire herself a wicked witch, and made a mental note to google it later.

Tiny Fiction: The Library Rebel

He slammed down the book and relished the ripples of shock and irritation as they echoed around the library.

“Sorry, so sorry,” he said, meekly, his head held low and so that his floppy fringe hid his small grin. The room was fusty, with dust collecting on every surface, weighing people down. They’d be slow to react, he’d get to enjoy every frown and tut as it unfolded around him. He lifted the book high a second time.

Once again, he was the master of chaos.