Moving Forwards part 3

As Rodger walked down the path of white stones, his ears reddened from the cold. He tucked his hands under his armpits and increased his pace. He looked left and right regularly, hoping for something. Anything.

What if there was a tide? What would he do when it came in? Behind him he could still see the wound in the sky. But Frederick had been unable to hear him even when he had stood right below the machine. He could easily disappear beneath the cold water and Frederick would never know where he went. Would not even be able to look for him.

Something moved in the waves to his right. He shook his head and looked again, but there was only water. He hurried on.

His nose ran. He wiped it with his sleeve. Why did he ever say yes to this stupid expedition? Oh, he knew the answer to that, he cursed himself under his breath, but what would all that money be worth if he got stuck in this God forsaken dimension? He gazed out across the water to where the sea and sky merged. It looked exactly like the sky had done on his last day at home.

He and Frederick had been to the gym that morning and they had decided to take a walk along the beach before parting. Frederick was going home to his family. Rodger was going home to his empty flat.

‘You’ve never really told me about your family,’ said Rodger picking up a flat stone.

‘There’s not much to tell,’ Frederick pulled his fingers through his messy yellow hair.

‘Tell me what there is’ Rodger tossed the stone and it skipped on the water five times before sinking.

‘Well, I still have my parents,’ said Frederick picking up a stone, ‘my mother makes the best fried chicken.’

Rodger had a sinking feeling.

‘You’ll have to try it when we get back,’ continued Frederick. ‘And my father knows everything about rocks.’ Frederick smiled, ‘but you had better not ask him about that, he can go on for hours.’ He tossed the stone which skipped seven times before plumping under the surface.

‘I’ll keep that in mind,’ said Rodger and threw another stone. It skipped twice. Of course Frederick’s parents were great.

‘Then I have a brother who is two years older than me. He’s a trucker, but shorter than me and so thin it almost looks dangerous. We always joke that he should have been the nurse.’

Rodger looked at the tribal on Frederick’s bulging upper arm. He would never have guessed nurse when he first met Frederick.

‘Then there’s my little sister, Lily,’ Frederick crouched down, picked up and discarded several stones, ‘she’s only twelve.’

‘So she’s, what,’ said Rodger, ‘fourteen years younger than you?’

‘Fifteen,’ said Frederick, ‘and she’s the cutest thing in the world. It’ll be a hassle chasing the boys off when she gets older.’

Rodger tried to smile.

‘It sounds like quite the family.’ Rodger felt an emptiness in his stomach. He should never have asked about the family.

‘It is,’ said Frederick, ‘man, it’ll be tough saying goodbye.’ He studied the stone in his hand. Rodger looked down at him. Frederick turned the stone over and over with his fingers, his blue eyes unfocussed, the corners of his mouth turned down.

‘Why are you going?’ said Rodger.

‘What?’ Frederick looked up.

‘It doesn’t sound like you want to leave them.’

‘I don’t,’ Frederick rose to his feet and gazed out over the water.

‘Then why are you going?’

‘Lily’s going blind.’

Rodger opened his mouth, but closed it again without a sound.

‘It began about a year ago,’ said Frederick with his back turned, ‘she can see with glasses as it is, but it’s getting worse. The doctor says she’ll be blind within the year without an operation. If I just get back from this one expedition, it’ll be enough.’

Rodger swallowed. He went up to Frederick and put a hand on his shoulder.

‘You’ll get back,’ said Rodger, ‘don’t worry, you’ll get back.’

Rodger wiped his nose again as he marched along the white stone path. At least Frederick would still get his share.

This is part three, here are parts one and two:

Advertisements

Moving Forwards part 2

‘Ouch,’ said Rodger as he shifted the ladder. His arms sore from where some of the rungs had hit him. He looked up at the hole and Frederick who had scribbled a message on his whiteboard.

‘Are you all right?’

Rodger checked all his limbs. Sore, but in working order. He showed Frederick a half-hearted thumb.

‘Good, wait,’ wrote Frederick and pulled himself inside. He reappeared about ten minutes later, but it felt like years to Rodger.

‘What the-’ Rodger turned his palms up and shook his head at Frederick.

‘The main generator overheated,’ scribbled Frederick, ‘but the backups are running fine now.’

Rodger wrinkled his brow. The project leader had told him that they would never need the backup generators, and that the main generator was flawless. In fact, everyone on the project had told him that nothing could possibly go wrong.

‘Shitheads,’ he whispered.

‘I don’t think it will happen again,’ wrote Frederick.

Rodger rolled his eyes.

‘What are you going to do?’ wrote Frederick.

Rodger frowned at the ladder. The wire. The safety line. Did they have anything else in the machine about forty metres long? He looked up at Frederick again.

‘I don’t have anything long enough to reach you.’ It said on the whiteboard. Rodger licked his lips. He swallowed.

‘Do you have anything down there that can help you?’

Rodger looked down at the ladder. Up at Frederick. At the sea. The stones. The wire. He shook his head.

‘You’ll have to find something.’

Rodger paced from the ladder to the water and back again. Rubbed his face in his hands, grabbed his hair.

‘Shit!’ he shouted, ‘fuck!’ He bit his nails. ‘How could they-’ He crouched down to look at the ladder. The ends had been severed as if they had never been attached to anything at all.

‘Shit.’ Rodger looked up. Frederick had written something again.

‘Are you all right?’

‘No, I’m-’ Rodger stopped himself, ‘all right,’ he took a deep breath, ‘I’m calm.’ He nodded at Frederick.

Frederickwiped the board clean and wrote.

‘The next jump is in 7 d 7 h and 33 min.’

So he had seven days to find something. Rodger checked his watch, counted the seconds. The hands seemed to be moving as they should. At least that was working. He took a mental note of the time. If he was not back in the machine when the next jump came…How many years would pass before they figured out how to give the machine a predefined destination? As he gazed along the stone path, a chill ran down his spine.

‘Can you give me a stun gun?’ Rodger shouted.

Frederickcupped his ear.

Rodger mimed pressing a trigger at someone and then froze as if stunned.

Frederickscribbled.

‘We haven’t tested that in this dimension yet.’

Rodger nodded.

‘I know,’ he shouted, ‘just give me the damn thing!’

Frederick paused.

Rodger threw out his arms to both sides.

‘Come on!’

Frederick went into the machine. When he came back, he carried a bundle. He made a shooing motion with his hand. Rodger covered his head with his arms and ran a few metres along the stones. Frederick threw the bundle and the wind only veered it slightly to one side before it met the stones with a crunch. Rodger flinched at the sound. He hurried to the bundle and unpacked it. It was made of spare clothes. They would be useful as well. Inside were the stun gun, unharmed, and a pack of biscuits, half of which were reduced to powder.

Rodger gave Frederick the thumbs up once more, stuffed the stun gun into his trousers and covered it with his jacket. Frederick wrote on the white board again.

‘I’ll throw you some more provisions, just in case.’

Rodger went out of range and sat down to inspect the stones. They had been sanded by the water. Completely smooth, but hard enough against a knee. He turned one over in his hands. It might be chalk. When he found a way back up he could bring one and they could find out. He sighed. There had to be more than water and stones on an entire planet.

A thump told him that the rest of his food had arrived. This time it was in a rucksack. He hoisted it onto his shoulders and checked his watch again. He waved up at Frederick. Frederick waved back and held up the white board.

‘Good luck.’

 

—————————–

This is part two. Read part one here:

Moving forwards part 1

Moving Forwards part 1

‘Almost,’ Rodger shouted against the wind, his cold fingers clutching the aluminium rungs of the rope ladder growing numb.

Frederick cupped his ear with one hand. He looked so small all the way up there.

‘Never mind,’ said Rodger, but the wind drowned his voice. He looked down on the white stones below. They looked like a path, about three or four metres wide and on each side, water, as far as the eye could see.

From the dimension machine where Frederick still sat, they had been able to see more. Further down the path there seemed to be more land, perhaps a string of islands. His safety harness was uncomfortably tight. He craned his neck to look down the path, as he clicked himself out of the safety line. 

A strong gust made the rope ladder buckle like a rodeo bull. Rodger’s fingers slipped. And he fell. He twisted in the air, reached the stones below thigh first and cried out as the pain shot up his leg.

He did not know if he was better or worse off having landed on the stones. Perhaps better, he could not see what was below the water. He lay still on his side and felt his leg carefully with one hand. It was sore, but there did not seem to be any broken bones.

Gingerly he rose to his feet and looked up. The rope ladder was thrashing about in the wind.Frederickwas waving at him, his face paler than usual. Rodger gave him the thumbs up. Frederick shouted something. Rodger pointed to his ears and shrugged his shoulders. Frederick made the wait sign and disappeared into the dimension machine.

The machine looked like a hole in the sky and was equally impossible to manoeuvre. This would have been so much easier if they had just been able to land the thing.

Frederick came back with a whiteboard. In large letters he wrote:

‘Are you still up to exploring?’

Rodger gave another thumbs up.

‘You sure I shouldn’t see your leg?’

‘Sometimes you sound like my mother,’ muttered Rodger as he gave an exaggerated nod. Then he pointed down the path. ‘I’ll just go down to the first island,’ he said.

‘I’ll lower down some provisions,’ wrote Frederick, ‘wait there.’

Rodger tapped his foot as Frederick disappeared from view again. It wasn’t as if he was going out on a large expedition. He would be back before dark and sleep in the machine, no worries.

Frederick reappeared with a basket clipped onto a steel wire. He put it over the edge and sat back to lower it down slowly. When the basket neared him, Rodger placed himself underneath and reached up his arms to receive it.

The hole in the sky flickered out of existence for a split-second and the basket plumped onto Rodger’s head. Then forty metres of rope ladder added its weight to the basket and Rodger’s legs buckled underneath him.

Inspiration Strikes!

Some time ago now I visited Bipolarmuse’s blog and read her post “A Quote about Madness” it was illustrated with this picture:

And underneath were the words: You always have the choice to move forward.

The picture and the words haunted me. And before I knew it I was writing a new story.

So in a minute I’ll post the first part of “Moving Forwards”(working title).

I hope you will all enjoy it 🙂

16 Questioning

‘Who sent you?’ The voice floats out from behind a strong white light.

‘No one, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ He squints and squirms in the chair. But the ropes are tight and the questioner is well hidden behind the light.

‘Who are you?’

‘No one.’

Who are you?’

‘I’m nobody special!’

‘Who are you?’

‘I’m Thomas Paulson.’

‘Why are you here?’

‘I don’t know, I don’t remember, I-’

‘Why are you here?’

‘Because you tied me up. If you untie me I promise to go away, far away.’

‘Where would you go?’

‘I don’t know. Anywhere that isn’t here.’

‘Do you have any family?’

‘I,’ he swallows, there is a strange buzzing in his head, ‘why do you want to know that?’

‘Do you have any family?’ the voice is completely level. It betrays no emotions.

‘Both my parents are dead,’ he says, and the buzzing in his head increases.

‘Do you have a wife?’

‘No,’ he says.

‘Do you have a wife?’

There is a clamp tightening on his head. His head is about to crack like a nut.

‘Yes! Yes, I have a wife,’ he bursts out.

‘What is her name?’

The buzzing is still there, but the headache is gone.

‘Liz…’ he whispers.

‘Do you have any other family?’

‘We have two kids,’ he says, ‘please! Please don’t hurt them.’

‘How old are you?’

The buzzing recedes.

‘What?’

‘How old are you?’

’37, what has that got to do with anything?’

‘Do you think of yourself as young?’

‘What kind of question is that?’

‘Do you think of yourself as young?’

‘Is this some trick?’

‘Do you think of yourself as young?’

‘I suppose, but I don’t see-’

‘Then why are you here?’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about! Just let me go! I just want to go home!’

‘Why do you want to go home?’

The buzzing returns.

‘Isn’t it obvious?’

‘Why do you want to go home?’

‘I want to be with my wife and kids again.’

‘Will you be with them if you go home?’

The buzzing intensifies.

‘Of cour-’

‘Will you be with them if you go home?’

The buzzing is so strong it almost drowns the voice.

‘I… Liz she… She’s not there…’

‘Where is she?’

‘She…’

His head clears completely. For a moment he stares into thin air then his chin falls unto his chest. ‘Oh God…’

‘Where is she?’ says the voice.

‘She was going to visit her parents inHolland,’ he says, ‘the kids were going with her…’

‘Why are you here?’

He swallows several times.

‘The plane crashed. She’s dead. They all are… dead. And I… didn’t know what to do. There was no one left… and I…’

His eyes cloud over.

‘I know why I’m here now.’

‘I can’t do it’

‘I can’t do it,’ he said to the tree.

‘No, I mean it. I just can’t do it.’

A blackbird warbled among the branches. The sun made the sweat run down his back and over there, right over there, on the only bench in the forest, she was. Ten metres away, max. He swallowed a couple of times.

‘You know she’s going to hate it,’ he glanced down the path. There was no one else nearby.

‘Alright,’ he said, ‘I’ll try. But don’t tell anyone.’

He went down on one knee and picked some wood sorrels.

‘Keep your fingers crossed,’ he said and with legs trembling went to the bench. She was reading a book. A very thick one. She was just that smart. And beautiful. With her red hair cut short in one side. He cleared his throat. She kept reading.

‘Here,’ he said, ‘they’re for you.’

She looked up.

‘Wha?’

‘They’re for you,’ he repeated, ‘here.’ He held out the little bunch of wood sorrels to her.

‘I’m sorry, I-’

‘Here,’ he said.

‘What, err…’ she looked from him to the wood sorrels and back again.

‘It’s four-leafed clovers,’ he said.

‘It looks like wood sorrels,’ she said.

He bit his lip. His eyes became moist.

‘Look, I didn’t mean to,’ she said.

A tear ran down his cheek.

‘They’re very nice,’ she said, ‘thank you.’

He sniffed.

‘You like them?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘yes, they’re… they’re very nice.’

‘Yay!’ He punched the air beaming. ‘I didn’t screw up.’

‘err… Right,’ she said, ‘I had better go home now.’

‘Oh yes of course,’ he said, ‘your cats must be waiting for you.’

‘How do you know about my cats?’ she said.

 

——-

This is an other exercise from the writing course.

The assignment was to write a dialogue with the title ‘I can’t do it’.

Of Doctors and E-books

Mr Icken felt damp all over. To make up for it, his mouth was as dry as dust and his tongue was at least twice its normal size. He rubbed his hands on his thighs. It did not help. He licked his lips and mumbled his problem to the doctor.

‘I’m sorry Mr Icken,’ said the doctor, ‘I didn’t quite catch that.’

Mr Icken heaved a sigh. The doctor’s hands lay neatly folded on the table. Mr Icken looked at them as he tried again.

‘I said, I’m,’ he swallowed, ‘I’m turning into a chicken.’

These are the first couple of lines of ‘Mr Icken’, a humorous/absurd short story in eight pages. The whole story can now be bought in an e-book version on axio.dk for 12.50 dkk which is the same as 1.4 GBP or 2.2 USD.

It is a Danish site, but if you just follow the green buttons (“Læg i kurv”, “Gå til kurv”, “Fortsæt”) and fill in your billing information under “Ny kunde”=”New customer”, you should be all right.

Of course, you could also make google translate the entire page…

I would be very grateful for the donation 🙂

Please tell all your friends, and tell me:

What would you do if you were turning into a chicken?

His Nails Blue as the Water

As he lay shivering, his blood freezing, his skin melting in the hole that they had thrown him in, and piled earth on, piling and piling until it seemed to graze the sky, he twisted against the vast quantities of earth which were drowning his lungs, blocking his eyes, muffling all sound, but pressing on his eardrums with a power so great that he screamed, forcing his jaws apart, letting out his voice, letting in the soil, letting it tumble into his mouth, bringing with it the taste of old moss, sand, worms, making him gag, retch, before he found out that nothing was coming up other than more dirt, more sand, more worms, more of all the things that covered him.

—————

This is the result of a writing exercise from this weekend.

We had to choose a sentence from a previous exercise and write a new text with that as the title. The special thing about this exercise was that we were not allowed to use any full stops until the exercise was done. This edited version is a bit shorter than the rough draft, but much better.  I should really have recorded it and put it up as an mp3. This kind of text is meant to be read aloud.

Yay for writing! And courses! And writing courses!

I was at a great writing course this weekend.

We began Friday where we visited a publishing house, Saturday we had lessons with some theory and plenty of writing exercises thrown in, and Sunday we had even more writing exercises, paused by a couple of presentations by for example an author who had published about 50 books (some for children, some for adults, some for in between).

I came home inspired and exhausted.

But not empty handed. The next text update will be an edited version of one of the exercises I wrote. When I’ve edited them, I’ll probably put up some more.

I contemplated uploading a rough daft as well, but I’m not sure if that would be interesting for anyone other than me.

 

What do you think?

Would you like to read the immediate result of a five or ten minute exercise?

And have you been on any good writing courses?

14 Smile 2 of 2

When we sat down at table that evening, I was placed between Lady Harriet Montague and Mrs Blaustein. Mrs Blaustein very pointedly turned her back to me and began a conversation with someone else.

Lady Montague asked me about my work and my interests, and when she found out that none of them involved large sums of money, she fell silent and spent the rest of the evening staring at a round cheeked young man whom I might have seen on television at some point.

The dinner dragged on and on. When we finally reached the dessert, I felt like I was going to burst, both because of all the food inside me, I eat a lot when there is no one to talk to, and also because of the impossible situation George had put me in. I heaved a sigh of relief when the waiters carried out the last dishes.

George tapped his glass.

‘Ahem,’ he began, ‘thank you all for coming. I am sure you are all eager to know why I have gathered you all here today. You might have heard some rumours, and I am pleased to say that you will very soon find out if they are true or not. In about ten minutes my butler, Hans, wave at them, Hans. Let them know who you are.’

Hans waved from one corner of the room.

‘Hans will lead you in through the double doors in the other end of the entrance hall where you will find very probably the greatest experience of your lives.’ George beamed across all the gathered people in their finery.

I did not think any of them looked ready to study animals, no matter how exotic, except perhaps if it was as a new fur coat. It flickered through my mind that George might want to make them into clothes, but I discarded the idea. That would bring him in trouble and although George was eccentric I had never one caught him lying.

When George sat down again I excused myself and went out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette. I inhaled and exhaled slowly. Imagining all the things George might come up with. None of them were really plausible. Some of them included waltzing panthers, sometimes with lions, sometimes with George, sometimes with guests. I snickered at the picture of Mrs. Blaustein’s fat frame moving across a dance floor with a panther as her partner. I was not quite sure how one should impress on the panther that she was not food. She sure looked enough like a sausage.

I was shaking the third cigarette from the package when I noticed that the dining room had emptied behind me. I stuffed the cigarette back in and went inside, irritatingly conscious of the smell of smoke I carried with me. I strode into the entrance hall just as Hans was locking the double doors with a padlock. A padlock?

‘Hans,’ I said, ‘are the others in there?’

‘Ah, Mister Thomas,’ he said, ‘the master said you would be along shortly. Yes, they are all in there. All the guests are on the floor, and the master is on the balcony above. If you would like to join him?’

‘Why have you locked the door?’

‘It’s all part of the plan, will you follow me?’

‘Well I..’

‘Please,’ said Hans, ‘come right this way.’

As he strode towards the stairs, I could hear George’s voice muffled by the thick wood of the door. I could not make out a single word. Hans was already halfway up the stairs, so I trotted up after him. I followed him to another door which was not padlocked and also much smaller. Hans opened the door for me and stood aside.

The balcony was on three walls of the hall and from it, I could look down onto the floor of the hall. George was on the balcony facing the doors. All around the walls of the hall were cages with different large predators pacing their cages, snarling or growling, and gathered in a clump in the middle of the floor were all George’s guests.

There was no way from the floor to the balcony. The only exit for the guests was the double doors which were closed behind them.

As I entered George was just finishing a second speech.

‘Have you ever seen anything like them?’ he said, ‘I think not. So feast your eyes my friends.’ He spread out his arms. ‘Soon you will feast on their flesh.’

‘What?’ said Mr Blaustein from the crowd, ‘never in my life, will I eat one of these animals. They’re not even supposed to be tasty.’

‘Hush, now,’ said George, ‘I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to my friends.’ George reached for a lever behind him and there was a scrape of metal as a number of cages opened their doors. The predators leaped out of their cages. My brain was numbed as I watched the female Black Panther plunge into Mrs Blaustein, throwing her to the floor.

Then there were screams, and I ran.

%d bloggers like this: